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MENAFN - Muscat Daily - 14/11/2012

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(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Oman's strong record at home will be tested on Wednesday when it takes on a higher-ranked Japan in their FIFA 2014 World Cup Asian round qualifier at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex.The Red Warriors haven't lost their home games since the third round of the World Cup qualifiers began in September 2011. The last time Oman lost at home in an official outing was the 1-2 loss to Australia way back in the 2011 Asian Cup qualifier on November 14, 2009.Oman coach Paul Le Guen believes his team is motivated enough to achieve a good result despite missing two regular defenders - Mohammed Sheeba and Saad Suhail. Sheeba is out injured while Suhail will miss Wednesday's fixture with a double booking.Le Guen said, ''It's a massive blow for us as both of them are key players. But I have confidence in my team. We will have to be more focussed in defence now.''The Frenchman admitted that Asian champion Japan is the clear favourite to top Group B. A win for the Blue Samurai would put them on the verge of clinching one of the two automatic Group B spots for Brazil 2014.Le Guen and his boys will be aware of the fact that Oman has never beaten the Japanese despite facing them in eight World Cup qualifiers, starting from 1997. Japan has won five times and the remaining three have been drawn.The Oman coach said, ''We are aware of our opponent's reputation. But since our 0-3 defeat to Japan in June, we have improved. We are in the running for qualification."After that loss, we drew against Iraq in Doha and held Australia at home. We then beat Jordan in a home game. I hope the players can create something special tomorrow.''Stressing that his players are fully fit, Le Guen said, ''It won't be an easy game. We have to keep concentrating till the final whistle. Definitely, the packed stadium will spur the team to give its best.''Oman captain Ali al Habsi will obviously be the biggest hurdle for the visitors. The Wigan keeper has been in form in recent Premier League matches and has declared himself fit for Wednesday's game despite injury concerns.Striker Imad al Hosni will once again spearhead Oman's attack. The midfield is expected to have a mix of experience and youth. Fauzi Basheer, Ahmed Mubarak 'Kanu', Juma Darwish, Raeed Ibrahim and Ismail al Ajmi are expected to man the midfield.The defence will comprise Mohammed al Mussallami, Abdulsalam Amour, Hussain Mudhaffar and Rashid al Farsi. Farsi makes a comeback to the team, having last played for the national side last year.Japan's Komano a doubtful starterJapan coach Alberto Zaccheroni has a new worry following the absence of Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa, as defender Yuichi Komano is doubtful for the match.Komano has a sore back and Zaccheroni said that a final call will be taken on Wednesday.The Italian coach, who believes Oman will be tough to beat at home, is also missing Schalke defender Atsuto Uchida, out with a thigh injury.Zaccheroni said on the match eve that his players will have to handle hard weather conditions, but added that it would be the same for both the teams.''We will give our best, irrespective of the weather conditions here,'' he said.The Japan coach is looking to return with three points from this game. ''We want to continue our good work and it's good to have a winning momentum. We want to win tomorrow,'' he said.Nuremberg midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake is likely to fill the gap left by Kagawa - out with a knee injury - while CSKA Moscow's Keisuke Honda will be the playmaker. The duo will join Japan captain and Wolfsburg's Makoto Hasebe, Yasuhito Endo and Stuttgart's attacking midfielder Shinji Okazaki.Ryoichi Maeda is likely to be the sole striker with Honda and Okazaki ready to assist him upfront. Hannover defender Hiroki Sakai is the stand-by for Komano and will join Inter Milan's Yuto Nagatomo, Southampton's Maya Yoshida and Yasuyuki Konno, with Eiji Kawashima in the goal.In the other Group B match on Wednesday, Iraq hosts Jordan in Doha. Japan is leading Group B with ten points, followed by Australia on No 2 and Oman on No 3 - both are on five points each.Jordan (4 points) and Iraq (2) are at the bottom.Teams: Oman (possible): Ali al Habsi, Mohammed al Mussallami, Rashid al Farsi, Hussain Mudhaffar, Abdulsalam Amour, Ahmed Mubarak 'Kanu', Raeed Ibrahim, Fauzi Basheer, Ismail al Ajmi, Juma Darwish, Imad al Hosni.Japan (possible): Eiji Kawa­shima, Yasuyuki Konno, Yuto Nagatomo, Hiroki Sakai, Maya Yoshida, Yasuhito Endo, Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Makoto Hasebe, Ryoichi Maeda.


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