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Australia are strong 'but have weaknesses' - Japan coach Halilhodzic

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and John Wilkinson look ahead to Japan's clash against Australia in AFC World Cup qualifying.
As Keisuke Honda's dream move at AC Milan came to an end, questions arise whether or not Pachuca is a good fit.

Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic believes his players have the character and determination to pick up the win they need to qualify for the finals of next year's World Cup when they host Australia on Aug. 31.

Halilhodzic announced his initial 27-man squad for the games against the Australians and Saudi Arabia five days later, with the Bosnian coach recalling captain Makoto Hasebe after the midfielder missed the last three games due to injury.

Victory over Australia at Saitama Stadium would secure Japan a place in a sixth straight World Cup finals.

Halilhodzic is confident his team can secure the victory that will take Japan to Russia.

"I have been told that we have never beaten Australia in a [final-round] qualifier, but we had a chance to beat them the last time we played them," Halilhodzic told Kyodo News.

"This has been the most difficult list I have had to put together.

"This team has character and that is what we need for this [Australia] game. The players have to be Samurai warriors. I want the players who take part in the game to show that spirit and have no fear.

Vahid Halilhodzic says the Socceroos are a strong team with weaknesses he hopes to exploit in Saitama.

"It's a difficult situation but I believe my players can rise to the occasion.

"I have analysed the Australians for the last two months, and went to Russia to watch them in the Confederations Cup. They had virtually their best squad, and are a strong physical team. They have strengths, but also weaknesses."

Should Japan fail to defeat the Australians they can still seal a place at the finals with a win in Jeddah over Saudi Arabia. A loss there in addition to a defeat against the Socceroos would see the Japanese enter into the playoffs.

The game comes after speculation that Halilhodzic would be fired should Japan lose against the Australians, but the former Algeria coach dismissed the rumours and claimed the relished the additional pressure.

"I hear the recent criticism directed my way and it puts pressure on me, but this is the kind of situation I like," he said.

"The more I come under attack and the more criticism I face, the more determined I am to respond."

Japan Squad

Goalkeepers: Eiji Kawashima (Metz, France), Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka), Kosuke Nakamura (Kashiwa Reysol)

Defenders: Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan, Italy), Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Reds), Maya Yoshida (Southampton, England), Hiroki Sakai (Marseille, France), Gotoku Sakai (Hamburg, Germany), Gen Shoji (Kashima Antlers), Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers), Genta Miura (Gamba Osaka)

Midfielders: Makoto Hasebe (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Yojiro Takahagi (FC Tokyo), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka), Yuki Kobayashi (Heerenveen, Holland), Gaku Shibasaki (Getafe, Spain), Yosuke Ideguchi (Gamba Osaka)

Forwards: Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City, England), Keisuke Honda (Pachuca, Mexico), Takashi Inui (Eibar, Spain), Yuya Osako (Cologne, Germany), Genki Haraguchi (Hertha Berlin, Germany), Yoshinori Muto (Mainz, Germany), Kenyu Sugimoto (Cerezo Osaka), Yuya Kubo (Gent, Belgium), Takuma Asano (Stuttgart, Germany)

Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch

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