Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura has urged Japan to be 'crafty' when they play Bahrain away in their opening game of the final Asian FIFA World Cup™ qualifying round on Saturday.
"Middle East sides tend to be loose when it comes to details. We must become a little bit crafty against them," Nakamura told Japan's Sports Hochi in Glasgow. "We'd like to be quick in set plays and restarts from throw-ins, apart from going for goals in a beautiful way."
Nakamura, who spearheaded Japan in the earlier qualifying rounds, is one of four Europe-based players in Takeshi Okada's squad for the game against Bahrain in Group A, which also includes Australia, Uzbekistan and Qatar.
Japan lost to Bahrain 1-0 in a cautiously defensive away game in the previous qualifying round, but the former Asian champions avenged the defeat by downing an under-strength Bahrain side by the same score at home.
"They (Bahrain) will mount counter-attacks from our mistakes. So it is important for us to fight compactly, and launch counter-attacks ourselves," the left-footed Nakamura, 30, added.
Okada has called up three other Europe-based midfielders: Junichi Inamoto (Eintracht Frankfurt), Daisuke Matsui (Saint Etienne) and Makoto Hasebe (VfL Wolfsburg), for what he termed a crucial match "with my back to the wall." Also in the squad is former Torino striker Masashi Oguro.
Okada, in his second stint as national coach after guiding Japan to a winless FIFA World Cup finals debut in France 1998, was alarmed by their 3-1 loss to two-time world champions Uruguay in a home friendly on 20 August. The match was played without Nakamura, who has scored 21 goals in 78 international games.
With their four European-based stars due to join them in Manama, Japan's national squad also lost 1-0 to a local university team on Monday in a training match. "We must tune ourselves up," Okada told reporters. He said the Bahrain match would be the "most important for us."
"I think it will be a tough match. But if we overcome this, our team can step up further. So we want to take the first match no matter what."
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