Japan coach Takeshi Okada believes size won't matter when the former Asian champions take on unbeaten group leaders Australia at home in their next FIFA World Cup™ qualifier.
"Australia are tall, big and strong. But it doesn't lead me to wonder what kind of approach we should take," Okada said as he announced a plan to play Finland in a warm-up friendly a week before the 11 February showdown against the Australians. "Our concept is aimed at a bigger goal."
"You may say there is a difference in heights but the difference is not so much as one metre. It's 20 centimetres (eight inches) at most," he added. "We may possibly beat them if we jump first."
Finland, who are struggling behind Germany, Russia and Wales in Europe's World Cup qualifying Group 4, were picked for the friendly at Tokyo's National Stadium to give Japan a taste of a physically stronger side.
"Finland are sufficient opponents as a 'virtual Australia'," Japan Football Association president Motoaki Inukai said. "I hope our side will have a full-out game to grasp the image of a victory."
Our team is steadily moving toward our goal, if little by little. But we are no good if we stop here. That's how I really feel.
Japan's 3-0 rout of Qatar away on 20 November has eased pressure on Okada after a run of uninspiring results, including a 3-2 away win over Bahrain and a 1-1 draw with Uzbekistan at home in earlier qualifiers.
Japan trail two points behind Australia, who dominate Asia's Group 1 with a perfect nine points from three matches. Qatar follow with four points from four games, with Bahrain and Uzbekistan at the bottom with one point each.
Australia beat Japan 3-1 at the group stage in the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals. But the Blue Samurai avenged the loss when they beat the Socceroos on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals in Hanoi.
"Our team is steadily moving toward our goal, if little by little," Okada said, noting that his concept was to engage all players, including Celtic star midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura, in both attacking and defending. "We have gone through trials and errors," said Okada who has been widely criticised for lack of clear-cut offensive tactics. "But we are no good if we stop here. That's how I really feel."
Okada assumed his second stint as national coach a year ago, replacing Ivica Osim when the ageing Bosnian tactician suffered a serious stroke. Okada led Japan in their winless FIFA World Cup finals debut at France 1998.
"The kind of football, which is envisaged by coach Okada, is becoming clear game after game," said the FA chief Inukai. "I am very much looking forward to their great step forward."