Oman vs Japan: Verbeek relishing battle with Group F heavyweight

Japan was made to work by Turkmenistan in its Asian Cup opener, and Hajime Moriyasu expects another tricky test against Oman.

Yuya Osako's brace against UAE made sure Japan avoided an embarrassing start in its bid for Asian Cup glory.   -  Francois Nel/Getty Images

Pim Verbeek insists Oman does not fear the prospect of "playing probably one of the best teams in Asia" when it comes 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 champion did not have it all its 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.

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Oman, in contrast, went down 2-1 to Uzbekistan in its 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."

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Japan is unbeaten since a 3-2 defeat to Belgium at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, winning five of its 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 it had failed to do in its three previous outings before the AFC 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 it avoided suffering an embarrassing start in its 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 has only won one of its seven group-stage games in the last three Asian Cup tournaments (W1 D2 L4), failing to win any of its first two in a single tournament.

- Japan has scored in 20 of its last 21 Asian Cup group-stage games, scoring in each of its last 10. It has never scored in 11 successive group games.

- In contrast, Oman has scored just two goals in its last six fixtures in the tournament, albeit it has netted in each of the last two.

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