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Jun 3, 2013

Neill hopes Japan succumb to pressure

Socceroos skipper Lucas Neill believes Japan being within a whisker of World Cup qualification may work in Australia's favour in their World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night.

Japan need just a draw from their next two matches to book a spot at next year's World Cup finals.

Australia need far more from their three games to grab a top two spot in their group and direct passage to Brazil.

The pressure for Japan going into a clash in front of a sellout 60,000 crowd in Saitama has been suffocating - the Blue Samurai expected to do nothing less than secure qualification at home with victory over an Australian team now ranked well below Asia's No.1 side.

But they have lost their past two matches - a shock qualifier loss to Jordan in March and a friendly to Bulgaria last week.

Neill believes Japan will qualify regardless of what happens against Australia, and wonders whether the build-up and expectation may temporarily overawe the home side.

"They only need that one point to be mathematically sure, and you look around at the way they hype their team up, and rightly so, they're in the big leagues," Neill said.

"The circus they bring to every media conference means they're under the spotlight, and I think they're feeling it.

"They're going away to the Confederations Cup (the World Cup dress rehearsal) to play soon, and now having lost to Jordan and Bulgaria ... let's hope we can keep them on that kind of form."

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni has done little to hose down the importance of the match to his side, ranked 30 in the world against 47th-ranked Australia.

"What I worry about is the atmosphere that we almost qualified for the World Cup mathematically, although 'almost qualified' and 'qualified' are quite different," he said.

"We will play against them for a place in the World Cup. We must have the same feelings as if we play the Champions League final.

"This is the most important game since I was appointed."

Japan officials have said midfielder Keisuke Honda, who has been in doubt with a thigh injury, is certain to play.

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