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HOME > SAMURAI BLUE > ASIAN QUALIFIERS - ROAD TO RUSSIA [6/13] TOP > NEWS > Halilhodzic: We've got to bring out the best to win - Ahead of the Iraq clash in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Final Round -


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Halilhodzic: We've got to bring out the best to win - Ahead of the Iraq clash in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Final Round -

13 June 2017

Halilhodzic: We've got to bring out the best to win - Ahead of the Iraq clash in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Final Round -

SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) wrapped up their preparation in an official training session on Monday 12 June at PAS Stadium in Tehran with only a day to go before their eighth fixture of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers Final Round. Japan coach Vahid HALILHODZIC said at the official press conference, "It's going to be the most important match for us. We've got to bring out the best and make every effort to win."

With three matches remaining in the final qualifying round, Japan stand on top of Group B with five wins, one loss and one draw after seven matches. On 8 June when Japan did not have a match, third-placed Australia beat second-placed Saudi Arabia 3-2 to level with Japan and Saudi Arabia with 16 points.

The Japan squad have gone through training in Tehran since 9 June to adjust to the severe heat and high altitudes. Despite that midfielder YAMAGUCHI Hotaru (Cerezo Osaka), who worked out separately until the previous day, returned to the team practice, injury issues on the midfield positions remain on the Halilhodzic side. "We have a tough situation on the midfield," said the Japan boss. However, he expressed confidence in front of media, saying "We've done some wonderful training on our tactics last two days."

Iraq stand in fifth place with four points after seven final-round matches and no longer have a chance to qualify this time. Japan won over Iraq 2-1 at home in the last matchup last October, but the Iraq side shifted their goal to the one after the 2018 World Cup and invited former Iraqi international defender BASIM QASIM HAMDAN AL-SUWAID as their coach in late May. They have begun to rebuild the team mainly with players who played in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Iraq warmed up with two friendlies ahead of the Japan clash, defeating Jordan 1-0 at home on 1 June and drawing with Korea Republic 0-0 in the UAE on 7 June.

The team went through tactics for an hour at the match site starting at the same time as the kick-off time.

"The ball doesn't bounce regularly in spots. We've got to anticipate irregular bounces while playing," YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC) commented on the pitch condition. "When you allow a chance to the opponents because of your own mistake, you get in a tough situation physically and mentally. We've got to play cleverly tomorrow."

Halilhodzic expects a lot from his players, saying "We need determined and brave players, and if we can play aggressively with courage and show our full potential, I think we can get a big job done."

Coaches' and Players' Comments

Vahid HALILHODZIC, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
The Iraq team are a wonderful team. 90% of their players experienced the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. They are strong both mentally and physically. They have many quality players on the squad. The coaching change must have motivated the players even more. They are the opponents that Japan have to play a great game to succeed. We have done some wonderful training on our tactics last few days. We need determined and brave players, and if we can play aggressively with courage and show our full potential, I think we can get a big job done.

In this heat, we have to take the health risk into consideration. Hydration is important. We also have the altitude issue, so psychologically it’s not easy to play here. But we have prepared ourselves thoroughly so the rest is on our players playing on the pitch responsibly. People in Iran and Iraq have welcomed us despite that terrible things are happening to them. I appreciate their wonderful hospitality. They got beautiful practice sites and the match site ready for us. On behalf of our entire team, I would like to thank them.

DF YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton)
We have called up young players more than ever this time, and we have many injuries.
The situation is also that the not many players with past national team experiences are playing on the pitch. So I want to take a leadership role effectively there, and we need to make sure to play fundamentally-sound plays considering the referees’ whistles and this playing environment. In the previous match against Iraq, we made many unnecessary fouls. So we have got to be careful for that, stay focused and every one of us has got to fulfill the expected role. Those things will be the keys for us.

FW OSAKO Yuya (1.FC Koeln)
It’s the hottest environment we have ever experienced, but the condition is the same to our opponents, too. We need to stay mentally engaged. It’s just winning this one. Us getting the win after the 90 minutes is the important thing. So scoring the opening goal is also important, but we have to play consistently throughout the 90 minutes, not only in the beginning or not only in the second half.

DF ENDO Wataru (Urawa Red Diamonds)
Since we have been here for some time, we are getting used to this heat little by little. The ball somewhat slows down on this pitch, so we have to be careful. Now that I have been selected to this team, I keep myself ready to play all the time. If I get a chance, I want to take advantage of it. I have been in good shape so far, so if I get on the pitch, I will make sure to do my job.

Our preparation has been very good. We played against Jordan at home and Korea Republic in UAE, and we played fairly well. I think we are now at our peak in terms of our readiness against Japan. In the last match, we allowed the goal in the last minute through the set-piece, but we showed good performance. Not only that match, but also we have repeatedly played well against Japan. Tomorrow we will play well again and want to prove how well Iraq can play at the World Cup.


Sun. 28 May PM Training
Mon. 29 May AM/PM Training
Tue. 30 May AM/PM Training
Wed. 31 May AM/PM Training
Thu. 1 June AM/PM Training
Fri. 2 June AM/PM Training
Sat. 3 June AM/PM Training
Sun. 4 June AM Training
Mon. 5 June PM Training *
Tue. 6 June 17:00
Official Conference (Tokyo Stadium)
Official Training (Tokyo Stadium)*
Wed. 7 June 1-1 KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017
vs Syria National Team (Tokyo Stadium)
Thu. 8 June AM Training
Fri. 9 June PM Training
Sat. 10 June PM Training *
Sun. 11 June PM Training *
Mon. 12 June TBC Official Conference
Official Training (PAS Stadium) *
Tue. 13 June 17:00 ASIAN QUALIFIERS
vs Iraq National Team (PAS Stadium)

*Local Time
*The schedule is subject to change due to the team condition, the weather, etc.
*Open to the media for the first 15min.


13 June 2017 (Tue.) 16:55 kick-off (estimated time)
[Japan Time: 13 June 2017 (Tue.) 21:25 kick-off (estimated time)]
Iraq National Team vs SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
PAS Stadium, Iran

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