Jordan ready for Japan battle

Jordan coach Adnan Hamad believes his underdog side can fight squarely against three-time champions Japan in their AFC Asian Cup opener tomorrow, as they did in the previous encounter between the two.

In one of the most stunning fightbacks in Asian Cup history, Japan battled from 3-1 down to edge Jordan 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 deadlock in the 2004 quarter-finals. The Samurai Blue went on to beat hosts China PR to lift the trophy.

"We were very close," the Iranian recalled on the eve of the Group B match. "History is a source of confidence for us although many things have changed in seven years.

"We will play in realistic ways, keeping in mind that Japan are one of the best teams in Asia," added Hamad, who was named the 2004 Asian coach of the year after guiding Iraq to a fourth place finish at the Athens Olympics.

"We are very well prepared for this match. A draw will be satisfactory for us. But, of course, it doesn't mean we'll play under pressure.

We are very well prepared for this match ... I'm quite optimistic that we'll have a great fight.
Adnan Hamad, Jordan coach

"We have a lot of ambition and all players are determined with a high morale," said Hamad, who helped turn Jordan's fortunes in Asian Cup qualifying after taking over from Portuguese Nelo Vingada in April 2009. "I'm quite optimistic that we'll have a great fight."

Jordan are also grouped with other three-time champions Saudi Arabia, who beat Japan in the 2007 semi-finals before losing to Iraq, and Syria.

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni warned his players against any complacency. "They must go out by renewing their resolve. There won't be any easy fight for them," said the Italian, who guided AC Milan to the 1998-1999 Serie-A title. "I have the impression that Jordan are a good team who can do well with counter-attacks."

Japan captain and Wolfsburg midfielder Makoto Hasebe is also wary of Jordan's counter-attacks. "I guess we will have more time attacking than Jordan do. But we have to consider risk management," he said.

Zaccheroni, who had never coached a national team or an overseas club, took over from Takeshi Okada after Japan reached the last 16 of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, their best-ever World Cup finish on foreign soil.

In October, Japan upset a full-strength Argentina in a friendly at home, with the 57-year-old Italian in charge for the first time. They also drew 0-0 away to Asian rivals Korea Republic in the same month.

Asked if those solid results would put pressure on him, Zaccheroni said: "It is a matter of course that you produce good results as head coach and manager. It is the national team's task to stay calm and do what they should do.

"The opening match will be very important and a good result means a good start to the tournament," he said. But he added that the result of the first match would not be "so decisive." He said Spain won the 2010 World Cup despite losing their opening match 1-0 to Switzerland.

Zaccheroni has recruited eight Europe-based players, including CSKA Moscow midfielder Keisuke Honda, who scored two goals in South Africa, and Borussia Dortmund rookie Shinji Kagawa, who had scored eight Bundesliga goals before the winter break.