Japan face pressure test in Bangkok: Kiatisuk

BANGKOK • Thailand's football coach says the pressure will be on Japan when the sides meet in Bangkok with both seeking to reboot their quest for a World Cup 2018 spot after first-game defeats.

The War Elephants host Asian giants Japan today, just days after a contentious late penalty saw them go down 0-1 to Saudi Arabia in Group B of Asian qualification.

Japan are also still smarting from a 1-2 home loss to United Arab Emirates after a disallowed goal by Takuma Asano in which replays showed the ball had clearly crossed the line.

Both teams need to finish in the top two of Group B in third-round Asian qualification to secure an automatic place in Russia in 2018.

"Anything can happen," Thai coach Kiatisuk Senamuang said, adding that he hoped vocal home support could swing the game in Thailand's favour.

"We want to put pressure on Japan. They will have a problem if they lose a second game. If Japan are careless or cannot earn a point, pressure will be on them."

Kiatisuk has won praise for driving a young team without global stars into the last 12 in Asia for World Cup qualification.

But Japan, a regional powerhouse with several players at top European clubs, are firm favourites in Bangkok.

Japan's Bosnian coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, said his players were ready for today's challenge and are determined to rectify their loss to the UAE.

"Japan have recovered and will go with strong character (into this game), looking for victory," he said.

"Thailand are fast but Japan have the quality and experience. We are playing to win."

The top two from six each in Group A and B advance to Russia.

The teams who come third will face off in a two-legged tie, before playing an intercontinental play-off for another spot in Russia.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'Japan face pressure test in Bangkok: Kiatisuk'. Print Edition | Subscribe