Japan coach gets tough for World Cup warm-up

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni promised Thursday's home game against the UAE would be anything but friendly in nature as the Asian champions warm up for the World Cup qualifier with Iraq next week.

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Japan manager Alberto Zaccheroni

"I don't like calling these games 'friendly' matches," the Italian said after training in Niigata.

"This game carries great weight for us before the game with Iraq. We have to stamp our authority on the game and tighten up for an important game on Tuesday."

Zaccheroni will call on Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa and CSKA Moscow playmaker Keisuke Honda, although Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo is an injury concern.

Kagawa, who scored his first goal for Japan in Niigata against UAE in 2008, will again be forced to play on the left, deferring to Honda, much to Kagawa's chagrin.

Having made a strong start for United since his pre-season move from Germany's Borussia Dortmund, Kagawa admitted he wanted to play in the hole against UAE.

"Obviously I want to play in an advanced position but the situation is up to the coach," said Kagawa. "I have to perform wherever I'm picked to play."

Japan overpowered Oman 3-0 and Jordan 6-0 at home before being held 1-1 in Australia in June in their first three games in the final round of Asian 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

A mistake from Kagawa led to Venezuela's equalizer in last month's 1-1 draw in a Sapporo friendly.

"I didn't play well in that game," said the 23-year-old Kagawa. "This is an important game so I have to make sure I'm at my best."

Zaccheroni said Nagatomo would undergo a fitness test to determine whether he would take part in the UAE warm-up.

"Let's see how he feels tomorrow," said the Italian. "I don't want to take any risks. If he's 100 per cent, he will play. If not, he won't."

Japan currently lead World Cup qualifying Group B by five points from Iraq, Australia and Jordan going into Tuesday's game against Zico's Iraq at Saitama.

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