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Sunday, June 10, 2012
Socceroos aim to avenge Asian Cup loss

By Jim Morton

Defender Sasa Ognenovski says the jet-lagged Socceroos possess extra motivation for Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier against Japan, as frustration remains from their Asian Cup final defeat.

A weary Australian outfit flew into Brisbane on Sunday morning hoping to quickly overcome the rigours of a difficult journey from the Middle East, where they played out a scoreless draw in 42-degree heat against Oman.

They confront a Japanese outfit who have made the most of their preferable starting draw in Group B by thumping Oman 3-0 and Jordan 6-0 at home before arriving in Australia on Saturday evening.

It will be the first clash between the closely-matched rivals, listed at No.23 and No.24 on FIFA's world rankings, since the Blue Samurai scored a 1-0 extra-time triumph in last year's Asian Cup decider.

The Socceroos outfit that line up at Suncorp Stadium will feature the bulk of the team that failed to convert their chances in Doha, and centre-back Ognenovski said they were determined to avenge a heartbreaking (Asian Cup) defeat.

"For the ones that played, of course, there's that motivating factor there as well," he said on Sunday.

"We felt as though we should have won that (final) so, hopefully, we can get that result on Tuesday."

But they have to overcome an unhelpful travel schedule and a confident Japan who boast a star trio in Manchester United-bound Shinji Kagawa, Inter Milan's Yuto Nagamoto and CSKA Moscow striker Keisuke Honda, who bagged a hat-trick against Jordan.

"We're a bit tired from a long trip (and) a lot of waiting and not a lot of sleep," Ognenovski said.

"They haven't had to travel (so far), which has been a nice draw for them, but we'll do our best and try and minimise their damage."

Since the 2006 World Cup, Australia and Japan have met five times and split the spoils with two wins each and a draw.

Attacker Robbie Kruse, who came off the bench in Doha 17 months ago, said it was crucial the Socceroos kick-start their campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with a home victory.

"We feel we've got the firepower to beat Japan and it's been a pretty good battle over the last four or five years," Kruse said.

"We respect them but we don't fear them.

"They have started well and it's vital for us to get the three points."

Japan have suffered a blow with 189cm central defender Maya Yoshida injuring his knee late against Jordan, which could help tall Socceroos striker Josh Kennedy's chances of starting after being benched in Muscat.




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