Japan will look to go level on points with table-toppers Saudi Arabia when the two teams meet in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Tuesday. Japan are three points behind their opponents going into this game, and with the race for the top two spots tightening up, the Asian powerhouses will be wary of dropping more points.
Saudi Arabia have been outstanding so far in this World Cup qualifying round, winning three of their four matches and not suffering a single defeat so far. That has put them on 10 points, two ahead of Australia and three more than Japan, who have lost one, drawn one and won the other two.
If Japan end up suffering their second defeat of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, it will seriously dent their hopes of making it to Russia in two years, because only the top two from each of the two groups are guaranteed a place in the World Cup.
After suffering an opening defeat to the UAE, Japan bounced back with two wins in two, beating both Thailand and Iraq, but their winning momentum stalled when Australia held them to a 1-1 draw in Melbourne.
Keisuke Honda, the veteran playmaker, knows the importance of all three points against Saudi Arabia and he has asked his teammates to ensure they get the right result in Saitama, irrespective of the performance or style of play.
"Obviously, we want to play the kind of football we envision, but it's never that easy and it won't be this time either," Honda said. "Even if it means playing unattractive soccer, we have to take all three points from this game no matter what."
Japan warmed up for this big match with a 4-0 win over Oman, but the Blue Samurai will know Saudi Arabia will pose a much more difficult test.
"The friendly was like a practice match and I guess the difference for (the next match) is that the Saudis will be coming right at us for the ball," striker Yuya Osako said.
"They will challenge us hard but I am used to that in Germany and if we show what we are made of as a team then I think we can get the win.
"The team are fired up for the match and now it is just a case of going to battle. If we can beat them man for man, then naturally the chances of us winning the game will increase. I am really looking forward to it."
Where to Watch Live
Japan vs Saudi Arabia is set to begin at 7.35pm local time (4.05pm IST, 1.30pm Saudi Arabia, 10.35am GMT). Live Streaming and TV information is below.
India: No live coverage.
Japan: TV: TBS and NHK.
Middle East, including Saudi Arabia: TV: Bein Sports Arabia 1HD. Live Streaming: Bein Sports Connect.
SouthEast Asia: TV: Fox Sports.
USA: TV: ESPN3. Live Streaming: Watch ESPN.