Oman v Japan: Verbeek relishing battle with Group F heavyweights
Pim Verbeek insists Oman do not fear the prospect of "playing probably one of the best teams in Asia" when they come up against Japan in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Hajime Moriyasu’s Japan top the table following the opening round of fixtures in Group F, though the four-time champions did not have it all their own way against Turkmenistan.
Yuya Osako inspired a second-half fightback after they had trailed 1-0 at the break, scoring two goals to help record a hard-fought 3-2 victory on Wednesday.
Oman, in contrast, went down 2-1 to Uzbekistan in their first game, though Verbeek was pleased with his side's performance in defeat.
"We played very well against Uzbekistan but we were unlucky to concede so late," he said. "The players, however, have been told of what went wrong and we will face Japan with confidence."
On the prospect of facing Japan, the experienced Dutch coach – who has previously had spells in charge of South Korea and Australia at international level – added: "We are looking forward to playing probably one of the best teams in Asia.
"They are a big team, experienced, played in the World Cup six months ago and now have brought in new talent. We are excited to be playing them.
"We won't fear them as we need the points after being so unlucky against Uzbekistan."
Japan are unbeaten since a 3-2 defeat to Belgium at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, winning five of their last six outings. However, head coach Moriyasu expects a tricky test against Oman.
"Oman have very quick counter-attacks but can also hold the ball well too. We have to be mindful of that as they can hit us if we let our guard down," he said.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Oman – Muhsen Al Ghassani
Verbeek at least saw his team find the net against Uzbekistan, something they had failed to do in their three previous outings before the Asian Cup. Al Ghassani was the man to find the net, equalising five minutes after coming on as a substitute, and he will hope to figure from the start against Japan.
Japan – Yuya Osako
The Werder Bremen forward was the catalyst for the comeback by Japan last time out, his brace making sure they avoided suffering an embarrassing start in their bid for glory in the United Arab Emirates.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- Japan beat Oman 1-0 in their only previous meeting at the Asian Cup, in the group stages of the 2004 tournament.
- Oman have only won one of their seven group-stage games in the last three Asian Cup tournaments (W1 D2 L4), failing to win any of their first two in a single tournament.
- Japan have scored in 20 of their last 21 Asian Cup group-stage games, scoring in each of their last 10. They have never scored in 11 successive group games.
- In contrast, Oman have scored just two goals in their last six fixtures in the tournament, albeit they have netted in each of the last two.