We are not going to make a drastic change to what we've been working on just because we have qualified for the World Cup but I want our players to show that they are making a new start mentallyWith 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualification already in the bag, Japan coach Takeshi Okada hopes to use today's qualifying match against Qatar at the Yokohama International Stadium as part of his team's preparations for South Africa.
A 1-0 victory in Uzbekistan last Saturday saw the Japanese seal qualification for a fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup, giving Okada the luxury of testing out the resources at his disposal for their final two Group A matches.
We are not going to make a drastic change to what we've been working on just because we have qualified for the World Cup but I want our players to show that they are making a new start mentally,
"We are going to take our first step in moving on to our next objective tomorrow," said the Japan boss, whose side have picked up 14 of a possible 18 points in the final round of the Asian FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
"We are not going to make a drastic change to what we've been working on just because we have qualified for the World Cup but I want our players to show that they are making a new start mentally.
"I think our opponents will apply pressure on us and kick the ball forward. If we kick it back, it won't be good to us. We will see how our players can cope with the situation."
Okada, who is banned from the touchline after being sent off in Tashkent, will be joined in the stands by suspended midfielder Makoto Hasebe and the injured Yasuhito Endo and Yuto Nagatomo. However, Qatar coach Bruno Metsu does not expect his side to have things any easier for their crucial must-win game.
"It will be a difficult game for us because Japan have won their qualification for the World Cup, which means they will be free from negative pressure," said the Frenchman, whose team trail Bahrain by two points entering their final group game.
"When Japan plays without negative pressure, they can be tough opponents to play against. On the contrary, we haven't qualified yet and we have to get a positive result, which adds extra pressure on us."
Qatar's task has been made even more difficult by the suspensions of midfielder Talal Al Bloushi and forward Sebastian Quintana, who picked up yellow cards in the goalless draw with Australia last weekend. Bahrain, who lost 1-0 to Australia in Manama last November, only need a draw from their final two games to seal third spot and the play-off berth in Group A.
I think our players are not afraid. We played against Australia in Bahrain and we played really well,
And coach Milan Macala believes they can get the point they need against the already-qualified Socceroos in Sydney. "I think our players are not afraid. We played against Australia in Bahrain and we played really well. I cannot say that it was a good game to watch but we played well," he said.
"If the players continue to play like that then we are not afraid. We will be able to create opportunities in that match, not great opportunities, but good opportunities. We dream about the World Cup, we need one point here."
Australia coach Pim Verbeek will be forced to make changes from the side which drew in Qatar with Lucas Neill suspended, and Carl Valeri, Mark Bresciano, Josh Kennedy and Richard Garcia all unavailable. The Dutchman is expecting no drop-off in effort from his players though.
"As far as I know I have 21 players fit," he said. "I'm not going to tell you who the first XI are, I don't know it yet. I have my ideas about the game but we are ready. We want to make it a good game, we want to win the game and we want to play our best."