East Asian Cup Preview: Japan v Australia
Japan head coach Alberto Zaccheroni will be concerned about his team’s defensive frailty ahead of their East Asian Cup clash against Australia.
Zaccheroni’s side drew 3-3 with China in their East Asian Cup opener on Sunday, making it 12 goals conceded by Japan in their past four games.
The Japanese threw away a two-goal lead in the last 10 minutes with Wang Yongpo and Sun Ke scoring late goals for China in a dramatic finale.
Japan went behind early on Sunday through a penalty from Wang and while goals from Yuzo Kurihara, Yoichiro Kakitani and Masato Kudo looked to have put Zaccheroni's team on track for victory, China hit back.
Wang scored another penalty in the 81st minute and Sun Ke slotted the equaliser six minutes later to secure a point, which has kept the East Asian Cup all square heading into the second round of games.
While Zaccheroni’s young side will be favourites to maul Australia in Hwaseong on Thursday, if they continue their poor defensive record, the Socceroos will fancy their chances of sneaking a win just as they threatened to in a World Cup qualifier at the start of last month.
Socceroos head coach Holger Osieck must restructure his midfield if Australia is to take advantage of Japan’s issues, however, after his team barely touched the ball throughout their 0-0 draw with hosts South Korea on Saturday.
Australia only escaped with a point due to a phenomenal performance from goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic.
The Adelaide United goalkeeper made a string of impressive saves to keep a clean sheet in Seoul but Osieck will undoubtedly have been disappointed in the failure of his midfielders, Mark Milligan, Dario Vidosic and Ruben Zadkovich, plus substitute Erik Paartalu, to control possession at any point against the South Koreans.
Osieck's decision to play Zadkovich for the entire 90 minutes was hard to fathom due to the Newcastle Jets captain's poor passing. On Saturday, Zadkovich regularly just thumped the ball long rather than trying to pick out a team-mate and Osieck has a number of options who could replace the 27-year-old.
Matt McKay, one of the few experienced players in Australia's squad, could be shifted centrally after struggling to get involved as a left-winger versus South Korea, while Aaron Mooy deserves a chance after a strong campaign with A-League premiers Western Sydney Wanderers last season.
Osieck may also be tempted to play Archie Thompson as the central striker against Japan as the Melbourne Victory veteran seemed almost stranded on the right wing in the Socceroos East Asian Cup opener. If Thompson does play down the middle and McKay is picked in central midfield, Mitch Nichols, Craig Goodwin, Adam Taggart and Connor Pain could all play a role out wide.