DOHA: Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu is hopeful that the trainees can anger the masters when they “lead by example” by Germany in the opening match of the World Cup on Wednesday.
Germany has become a popular destination for Japanese players in recent years, with eight of the current squad playing in the Bundesliga.
Moriyasu praised German football’s contribution to the development of his players but urged them to show their special qualities when the two teams meet in Doha. “Germany won the World Cup and that’s our goal too – they set an example for us,” the coach said on Tuesday.
“We are learning from Germany but we also want to compete on the world stage with the qualities Japan has. “We have a lot of feelings for Germany but we have to treat tomorrow’s game as if we were playing with any other team and give our best.”
Japan struggled through a tough group, with Costa Rica and Spain also awaiting in Group E.
The Samurai Blue have yet to make it past the last 16 at the World Cup, but Moriyasu said they hope to “change history” by reaching at least the quarter-finals.
Captain Maya Yoshida admitted that their chances of advancing could hinge on the outcome of their opening match.
The centre-back has seen Germany players in close quarters since joining Schalke 04 in July and is impressed by what he has seen.
“We understand they have good qualities – pace, pace and physicality too,” said the former Southampton player, who made his third World Cup appearance.
“The key is to defend well. Maybe less chance to attack, but we need to counter-attack.”
Japan has been plagued by several injuries in the build-up to the tournament, with doubts about the fitness of influential midfielder Hidemasa Morita.
Moriyasu said his entire squad was available for selection and he wanted his team to play “without regret”.
“We have players in the Bundesliga who play with or against the best players in the world, and I want them to be confident when they play tomorrow’s game,” he said.
The Asian teams have had a hard time in the tournament so far, with host country Qatar losing 2-0 to Ecuador in the opening match and Iran being defeated 6-2 by England.
Yoshida urged fans from all over Asia to cheer for Japan. “Germany is very strong, so we need some support,” he said. “We represent Japan, of course, but at the same time we represent Asia.
“So we hope that many fans will come to the stadium, not only Japanese but also many Asian fans.”