Japan, Iraq, Iran look to seal their spots in Round of 16 on Friday

Japan, Iraq, Iran look to seal their spots in Round of 16 on Friday

QLNews
By QLNews

When four-time champions Japan take on Iraq in Group D of the AFC Asian Cup at the Education City Stadium on Thursday, they will aim for nothing short of a win.

The stakes will be high with the match winners comfortably qualifying for the tournament’s next stage.

Vietnam and Indonesia, the other two teams in Group D, are yet to win a point. With any hopes of their progress to the next round resting firmly on a positive result, the teams will go all out at the Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadim.

In the day’s last game, Iran will take on Hong Kong at the Khalifa International Stadium. Already having three points, Team Melli can progress to the next round with another win.

Here is a look at the teams in contention on Friday.

GROUP D
IRAQ VS JAPAN

Kick-off: 2:30pm
Venue: Education City Stadium

Iraq head coach Jesus Casas is fully aware of the formidable challenge awaiting his team when they play Japan in Group D of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qatar on Friday.

Despite the confidence gained from the commanding 3-1 victory over Indonesia in their opening game, Casas said nothing short of a flawless performance will suffice if his side are to upstage the four-time champions at the Education City Stadium.

“Japan are one of the strongest teams in the competition and have had a lot of time with their coach (Hajime Moriyasu). Many of their players are in Europe’s top leagues, and they’ve also had a phenomenal run at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.  To beat them, we need to play a perfect match,” said the Spaniard.

Iraq will be without Danilo Al Saed while there is uncertainty surrounding the availability of Osama Rashid, who flew to Portugal to be with his family following the birth of his child.

Moriyasu was optimistic of his team’s chances, saying Japan had learnt from the mistakes made against Vietnam, which ended 4-2 in his side’s favour.  

“I know some of the fans are disappointed with our performance against Vietnam. They expected a more decisive win, but I shouldn’t be too worried. There were some errors, and we’ve learned from them, while also identifying many positive trends,” said the former Japan midfielder. 

GROUP D
VIETNAM VS INDONESIA

Kick-off: 5:30pm
Venue: Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium

Shin Tae-yong will not be looking at the past when Indonesia take on Vietnam in Group D on Friday.

In four meetings with Vietnam since taking charge of Indonesia, Shin has a record of two draws and two defeats, but the former South Korea head coach is keen to approach the match as a standalone without the baggage of history.

With Japan taking on Iraq in the group’s other match, a win for Indonesia against Vietnam will reignite their chances of reaching the Round of 16 ahead of their concluding clash with the Blue Samurai.

“For Indonesia and Vietnam, we’ve faced each other for a long time, not only at this Asian Cup but also the World Cup qualifiers,” said the 53-year-old Korean.

“We both lost our first match, so this one is important for both of us, and both sides will be going for the win. Regardless of any results from the past, I’m sure we’ll be better than before,” he added.

Frenchman Philippe Troussier was impressed by Indonesia’s display against Iraq, highlighting goalscorer Marselino Ferdinan and Rafael Struick as Vietnam’s biggest threats.

The AFC Asian Cup-winning coach is targeting a more controlled approach as the Golden Star Warriors go in search of a win.

“The match against Indonesia is still part of the process towards qualification to the second round. It remains in our hands because there’re still six points to get in theory. To qualify for the second round, we need points, we need goal difference. It means from now we’ve destiny in our hands,” said Troussier. 

GROUP C
IRAN VS HONG KONG

Kick-off: 8:30pm
Venue: Khalifa International Stadium

Head coach Amir Ghalenoei is expecting more from his Iranian players when they take on Hong Kong on Friday.

Team Melli started their journey in style, putting four goals past Palestine from four different scorers as all of Karim Ansarifard, Shojae Khalilzadeh, Mehdi Ghayedi and Sardar Azmoun contributed to the 4-1 victory on Sunday, but Ghalenoei insists his team still has more.

“The last match was difficult; we’d to fight a lot and, in the process, picked up two injuries,” said the Iran boss.

“We’ve some injured players, and we could make three or four changes. When I said I wasn’t satisfied with our performance in the previous match, it was because I know what my players are capable of. We’re ready for the match tactically, and we know our players are technically sound and very creative,” he said.

Team Melli enjoyed nearly 62% of possession during their first game, but Ghalenoei is more focused on how the team utilises that possession.

“(Pep) Guardiola brought in ‘Tiki-Taka,’ but he himself is changing. The number of passes isn’t so important, it matters how many players you put out of play by each pass, the possession, and how well you complete it. That’s the priority for me,” he said.

Hong Kong started their campaign with a 3-1 loss to UAE, but did enjoy a moment of happiness when Philip Chan scored their first AFC Asian Cup goal since 1968, also marking the 1,000th goal in the competition’s history.

The East Asian side have welcomed back veteran centre-back Helio from injury, providing a boost for head coach Jorn Andersen before the team’s clash against Iran.

“I’m very happy after our training yesterday as after a long time we had all 26 players available. Helio is back after a while, and I’m glad to have a full-strength squad. We’re up against a tough opponent. We played Iran only a couple of months ago, and we know how tough they can be. But this is a new match, and we’ll do our best,” said Andersen.

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