Zaccheroni: Asian Cup is like the Champions League
© AFP

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, leading Japan at the AFC Asian Cup, has vowed to keep his nerve in an event he likens to the UEFA Champions League.

"The Asian Cup is a short tournament. From my experience, I think it is similar to the Champions League," the Italian said ahead of Japan's crunch match against Syria following their 1-1 draw with Jordan. "Every match is important in such a tournament so that our approach to the game should be strictly calm but never emotional," added the 57-year-old.

Zaccheroni faces his first major crisis since taking the job from Takeshi Okada after the Blue Samurai reached the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in June. Japan, three-time Asian Cup winners, barely survived their opening Group B match with a last-gasp equaliser after attempting 17 shots against a doggedly defense Jordan, ranked 75 places below them at 104 in the world.

Syria are raring to spring another surprise after shocking other triple titlists Saudi Arabia 2-1. "I am tasked with analysing the outcome of the Jordan game and calmly conveying it to the players," Zaccheroni said ahead of Thursday evening's game.

The Japan coach said his side must increase their speed of play and the accuracy of shots against Syria, whom he expects to be as defensive as Jordan.  He said. "Middle East teams are very tough and determined not to give up. In this tournament, all teams are closely matched in strength and matches are often swayed by a single episode."