Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Japan looking for goals against Malaysia in Olympic qualifier

Only goals will matter for Japan when they face Malaysia in tomorrow's Olympic Qualifying Group C match at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka is counting on Borussia Monchengladbach striker Yuki Otsu and full international  Genki Haraguchi to boost his team's attack against an experienced Malaysian back-line, led by centre-back Muslim Ahmad.

The 21-year-old Otsu, who missed Japan's crippling 2-1 defeat away to Syria earlier this month, is set to join up with Sekizuka's team today. His Bundesliga club refused to release him for the Syria match.

Otsu scored a goal each in Japan's victories over Bahrain (2-0) and Syria (2-1) in the first round last year.

His inclusion for the Malaysia game along with Urawa Reds midfielder Haraguchi comes as a major boost for the 20-member Japan squad.

The other strikers in the squad are Kensuke Nagai, Yuya Osako and Kenyu Sugimoto.

"First and foremost, we have to win. Then we need to pump in as many goals as we can," Sekizuka told mdn.mainichi.jp yesterday.

Japan and Syria are even on points and goal difference, but the latter lead the group  on total goals scored.

Only the group champions  qualify automatically for London.

The second-placed teams in each group will enter a round-robin play-off with the winners facing African side Senegal for the continent's last spot at the Games.

Japan have   featured in the last four Olympics, but the prospect of not qualifying for London has become a grim possibility with the loss to Syria.

"Obviously, the Syria defeat was disappointing because it sent us back to the drawing board.

"We need to unite more than ever as a team so we can head into this match for a win," added Sekizuka.

Malaysia are out of the running for an Olympic spot following four straight defeats. 

Coach Ong Kim Swee, however, wants his players to give their 100 per cent commitment tomorrow.

"We must not surrender so easily to Japan. The players must fight hard and play to win.

"Our advantage is that we will be playing without any pressure unlike Japan. I want only the best from my players," said Kim Swee.

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