Giant-killers Syria ready for Japan battle

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Doha, Jan 12 (AFP) Syria, boosted by a shock 2-1 defeatof Saudi Arabia in their Asian Cup opener, are hoping to showtheir true worth against other three-time champions Japantomorrow.

"We want to prove to the world that our good resultagainst Saudi Arabia did not come by chance," Syria coach TitaValeriu said on the eve of their second Group B match againsta Japanese team that salvaged a 1-1 draw with Jordan.

"Of course, it will be a great surprise if we win becauseJapan are a very strong team," added the 44-year-old Romanian,who became the third man in three months to assume the job inmid-December.

"Japan are definitely much more difficult than SaudiArabia. We must move cautiously in our field and put pressureon the other team."

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni, whose side saved hisblushes with an injury-time equaliser against a doggedlydefensive Jordan on Sunday, admitted another tough battleawaited them.

"Syria proved to be highly organised and highly motivatedagainst Saudi Arabia," said the former AC Milan boss, who tookover from homegrown Takeshi Okada after the Blue Samuraireached the World Cup last-16 in South Africa.

"They are in an extremely good frame of mind as they arethe only team with three points in our group.

"It is important to improve our speed against such a teamwho refuse to give us space," the 57-year-old Italian added.

"We made 17 shots but drew with Jordan. We must finish onchances without fail."

Zaccheroni is tasked with bringing the title back toJapan after Saudi Arabia beat them in the 2007 semi-finalsbefore bowing to surprise packages Iraq.

Syria midfielder Abdulrazak Al Husein, who scored a braceagainst Saudi Arabia, said: "Definitely we don''t have any fearbut respect for Japan.

"We are increasingly self-confident. We want to prove tothe world that the Syrian national team are a developed andwell-balanced team."

Syria are raring to reach the Asian Cup knockout stagefor the first time in five outings. In their Cup debut in1980, they missed a last-eight berth by one point.

"I have told my players they should not get too confidentof themselves and we must prepare for the next match," Valeriusaid.

"The tournament is still open and every team still hasthe possibility of reaching the quarter-finals.

Japan captain and Wolfsburg midfiedler Makoto Hasebewarned: "Syria are boosted by the momentum of their victory.

"We have worked hard to correct our weakness thatresulted in our failure to break down Jordan''s defence. If weare willing to fight by overcoming the point and if we canplay football as we want to, I believe we will win." (AFP) SHN

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