Russia 2018 Asian Qualifiers Third Round: Japan v Saudi Arabia preview

Saitama: A key clash on the Road to Russia as table-topping Saudi Arabia, three points clear of third-placed Japan, look to cement their lead atop the Group B standings whilst the hosts will be desperate to bank maximum points in their third to last home match of the campaign.

Potential Line-ups 

  • Japan must avoid falling into the ‘traps’ that Saudi Arabia will set according to coach Vahid Halilhodzic.
  • Saudi Arabia coach Bert van Marwijk believes that Japan face the greater challenge on their home turf.
  • There are injury and fitness doubts over several of the Japanese players, headlined by Shinji Kagawa and Yuto Nagatomo.
  • Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Yasser Al Mosailem was injured playing for his club and is likely to be ruled out.
  • The last time the sides met was during the 2011 AFC Asian Cup where Japan defeated Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the group stage en route to winning the title.

Match Details 
Date: 15 November 2016 (Tuesday)
Kickoff time: 7:35pm JST, 10:35am GMT
Venue: Saitama Stadium 2002, Saitama
Referee: Muhammad Taqi (Singapore)

Coach Quotes 

Vahid Halilhodzic, Japan
“You don’t need so many philosophies in regards to this match; we’ll just do everything to win and although we know it’s difficult we’ve been working hard for that goal. I’ve said repeatedly that I want the players to play more at their club teams as they’re not robots and can’t play at the same level for the national team if they’re not performing for their clubs.

“We need to control things in this match through hard work with a strong commitment and concentration and be sure not to make too many fouls but still use all the techniques in football – the last few years Japan hasn’t been able to do this and Saudi Arabia has.”

Bert van Marwijk, Saudi Arabia  
“We are looking forward to this game, tomorrow we play against the big favourite in this group but we’re prepared and have a lot of confidence ourselves because we can also play football very well.

“We always play to win, we try to play the same everywhere, whether in Saudi Arabia or abroad so it makes no difference to be here in Japan and while we know the quality of Japan I think they also know our qualities.”

Head to Head Record
17/01/11 Saudi Arabia 0-5 Japan
25/07/07 Japan 2-3 Saudi Arabia
15/11/06 Japan 3-1 Saudi Arabia
04/09/06 Saudi Arabia 1-0 Japan

Form
Japan: WWLWD
Saudi Arabia: WWWDW

How they fared on MD4
Australia 1-1 Japan 
A goal apiece ensured the two Asian heavyweights would share the spoils in Melbourne as Australia extended their unbeaten run after Mile Jedinak’s second half penalty cancelled out Genki Haraguchi’s early opener.

Saudi Arabia 3-0 United Arab Emirates
Substitute Fahad Al Muwallad scored a spectacular volley as unbeaten Saudi Arabia netted three in the final 20 minutes to claim a 3-0 victory over United Arab Emirates and top the Group B standings.

Photos: Lagardère Sports

Asian Football Confederation

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