• AFC Futsal C'ship 2014: Group D Preview
    23:44 | 30/04/2014

    Coach Miguel Rodrigo is confident Japan can mount a successful defence of their AFC Futsal Championship title in Vietnam this month despite only having six players remaining from the squad which triumphed two years ago.


    Japan claimed their second AFC Futsal Championship in the United Arab Emirates in 2012 after posting a 6-1 win in the final before reaching the Round of 16 at the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup.

    And ahead of Thursday’s 2014 Group D opener against Korea Republic at Ton Duc Thang University Stadium, Rodrigo is looking for his revamped side to pick up where they left off in Dubai.

    “We were preparing in Spain for two weeks at the end of March before going back to Japan for 10 days in Nagoya, so a total of 20 days preparation for the tournament. Considering the tight schedule of the Japan league, this was sufficient time to prepare,” said Spanish coach Rodrigo, who will be without Kotaro Inaba, who was part of the squad in 2012, due to suspension.

    “Only four players and two goalkeepers have the experience of winning the last title, so more than half the players are new to this challenge. The new players lack experience, but we will look to build on the positives and we are confident.

    “Korea have a new coach so that means tactical changes so they are no longer an easy team. I respect them a lot. There are no more easy games in Asia and I believe this is the most difficult group as Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan can reach the final.”

    Korea failed to pick up a point in the UAE two years ago, but Spanish coach Raul Gonzalez is eyeing improvements with Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan also drawn in Group D.

    “We prepared in Korea but we couldn’t play any matches with high level teams due to organisational issues,” said Gonzalez.

    “Our first match is against one of the best teams in the competition and that means for a team like Korea, our goal is to improve and playing against the best teams is a good opportunity for our team to improve.”

    Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, who both reached the quarter-finals in 2012, round off the opening day in Group D on Thursday evening at Ton Duc Thang University Stadium.

    “We have prepared for six months. We had training in Kyrgyzstan and some matches in Kazakhstan,” said Kyrgyzstan coach Rustam Isaev.

    “During training we have looked at dealing with pressure as we know Uzbekistan press.

    “Even though we are in a strong group, we want to go as far as we can.”

    Uzbekistan, who lost to Iran in the 2012 quarter-finals, secured their place in Vietnam after winning the South & Central Zone qualifiers with a 100% record.

    “We started our preparations in September. The qualification round was in Tashkent and we also played against Iran, so I think we are ready,” said Uzbekistan coach Bahodir Ahmedov.

    “We have prepared well and want to win all the games, but we will take it step-by-step.

    “It is a tough group and Japan are favourites as we know them as we have played them before, but all the games will be difficult.”

    According to AFC

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