Buoyed by impressive starts to Korea 2007, Japan and Nigeria head into their duel with three points already under their belts. Hiroshi Jofuku's young charges left it late to subdue a valiant Haiti team, netting two late goals in a 3-1 win, while the Golden Eaglets edged their heavyweight bout against France. While defeat in this match is unlikely to end either side's qualification hopes, three points would be enough to assure the winners a berth in the Round of 16, not to mention the prospect of a stress-free final Group D match.
Expect a contrast of styles between the athletic and robust African champions and the Blues' incisive cut-and-thrust style of play. Nevertheless, the aim is the same in both camps: three points and a place in the next round. Victory would be especially sweet for the East Asians, who are desperate to make amends for the 5-0 trouncing they suffered the hands of Nigeria in June's Eight Nations International U-17 Tournament.
In the match against Haiti, Yoichiro Kakitani stepped off the bench to score the third Japanese goal. His contribution should be enough to earn the young striker a place in the starting line-up come Wednesday. In the Nigerian camp, the injury sustained by forward Macauley Chrisantus in the France game makes him a serious doubt for his side's second Group D clash.
The Africans have had the better of previous meetings between the two sides, who have met twice at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. On both occasions the Golden Eaglets rose to the occasion, winning 2-1 in 1993 and 4-0 in 2001. Japan have also stumbled to two defeats against Ghana, totting up an ominous tally of four losses in as many meetings with African opponents.
"I wasn't involved in the Eight Nations Tournament, but my team-mates and I all remember that defeat by Nigeria. It's hard to forget a match like that, but we'll have to put it out of our minds on the day of the match. It'll definitely be a different story this time round." Yoichiro Kakitani, Japan forward
"We're a solid unit, we're strong all over the park and we came here to win. The whole country is behind us, which gives us added impetus to win every match and take the trophy back home." Yami Tella, Nigeria head coach