Coach Hajime Moriyasu said Japan want to build on its World Cup success by recapturing the Asian Cup -- but must first survive an “extremely difficult” group.
Moriyasu called Asian Cup host Qatar “a lucky place for us”, having stunned Spain and Germany on the way to the last 16 of the World Cup there in the winter.
But Thursday’s draw in Doha put the record four-time Asian Cup winners in arguably the hardest group of the finals, along with fellow former champions Iraq plus Vietnam and Indonesia.
The top two from each group reach the knockouts at the regional showpiece in January-February next year.
“We’ve been put in an extremely difficult group,” Moriyasu told journalists after the draw, according to Kyodo News.
“Our objective is winning the championship. We mustn’t forget to enjoy this as we take on the challenge,” he was quoted as saying.
Moriyasu said that Qatar held fond memories for his side, who will be among the favourites to win the Asian Cup.
“This is a lucky place for us. We want to win the tournament and once again enjoy the rapture of Doha,” he said.
Iraq will be Japan’s biggest threat in Group D, but Moriyasu is also wary of Vietnam.
It is coached by experienced Frenchman Philippe Troussier, who led Japan to the round of 16 at its home World Cup in 2002.
“He is someone who has always watched Japan. We have to prepare ourselves for a tough fight,” Moriyasu said.
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