Kuala Lumpur: The 2018 AFC U-16 Championship quarterfinal tie between Japan and Oman promises to be a cracker at the National Stadium on Sunday. It will be a meeting between former two-time champions with Japan having enjoyed a largely untroubled journey into the knock-out stage while Oman advanced from Group B as the runners-up after a nervy final day.
The young Samurai Blue opened their campaign with a blast as they came from a goal down to beat Thailand 5-2, but a 0-0 draw with Tajikistan on matchday two put their qualification hopes on the line. However, Japan showed their true colours in the final group tie, beating Malaysia 2-0 to claim top spot in Group A. Japan, who won the Championship in 1994 and 2006, have consistently qualified for the quarterfinals since their last title triumph, but head coach Yoshiro Moriyama is targeting much more than that this around.
“I was really happy we got through to the knockout stage,” said Moriyama. “We played against Malaysia and we felt that it was the first game of the knockout stage because we needed to win to go through.” “This is a game that matters the most because it’s either you win or go home. Of course I would like to win the game so that the players can experience going to the (2019 Fifa U-17) World Cup. We will try our best to win the next game. “My impression of the Oman team is that they are aggressive with their strikers, wingers and flankbacks, who are quick. I think we will struggle against them individually, but we will play as a team and come out with a good result.”
BATTLE HARDENED OMAN
The West Asians claimed an opening day 2-0 win over Yemen before playing to a 2-2 draw against Jordan. Despite suffering a 3-1 loss to DPR Korea, Oman finished second in Group B after Yemen defeated Jordan 5-1. “In the last game, we lost against DPR Korea, which wasn’t an easy match,” said Oman head coach Yaqoub al Sabahi. “But right after the game, we began preparing our players. “I know a game like this is not easy. Our players also have the confidence now, and I hope they are ready, as we (technical staff) will do our best from our side.” Oman were champions in 1996 and 2000, but have not made the semifinals since. “The chance is in our hands and we need to take this chance. Nobody will refuse the chance to win, so we just need to concentrate.”