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Japan - Azerbaijan Preview: Honda expected to make first international start in nine months
The CSKA Moscow attacker's return to international play will be a highlight of Wednesday's friendly as Alberto Zaccheroni considers his World Cup qualifier options
By Dan Orlowitz
Uchida, Komano, Makino, Nagatomo
Honda, Nakamura, Kagawa
Medvedev, Abishov, Shukurov, Levin
Mammadov, Chertoganov, Nabiyev, Nadirov
In what could be generously described as an unusual match-up, Japan hosts 109th-ranked Azerbaijan on Wednesday night in a warm-up for the Samurai Blue ahead of their World Cup qualifiers against Oman, Jordan and Australia in June.
The opponents, chosen by Alberto Zaccheroni for a similar level to Japan's two West Asian opponents, will serve as a foil for a Japan squad that will feature a mix of regulars, returnees and newcomers. The most anticipated player is undoubtedly Keisuke Honda, expected to make his international return after a nine-month absence. Ryo Miyaichi may also have a chance to shine after completing his loan spell at Bolton. The crowd at Ecopa Stadium will expect goals aplenty, and the hosts should be able to deliver in what should be an entertaining display.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Japan have not lost an international friendly since June 2010 in a pre-World Cup warm-up against Ivory Coast.
- Out of 13 J-League players selected by Zaccheroni, four (Shuichi Gonda, Yuhei Tokunaga, Aria Jasuru Hasegawa (pictured), and Hideto Takahashi) come from FC Tokyo, the most of any team.
- This match marks the first time that Gamba Osaka centre-back Yasuyuki Konno has been omitted from Zaccheroni's squad.
- Azerbaijan won their last match, a February friendly in Dubai against India, by a 3-0 score.
- Manager Berti Vogts won the World Cup playing for West Germany in 1974, then managed Germany to their 1996 Euro championship.
- Azerbaijan managed a shock home win over Turkey in Euro 2012 qualifying while they also managed a draw with Belgium in Baku. However on the road they lost all five of their games.
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Top 3 Predictions
Japan 8-0 Azerbaijan
- 17.68 %
Japan 3-0 Azerbaijan
- 12.46 %
Japan 4-0 Azerbaijan
- 12.17 %
|International Friendlies (FR)||May 23, 2012||Japan 2 - Azerbaijan 0|
|Mar 26, 2013||Jordan 2 - Japan 1||WCQ|
|Mar 22, 2013||Japan 2 - Canada 1||FR|
|Feb 6, 2013||Japan 3 - Latvia 0||FR|
|Nov 14, 2012||Oman 1 - Japan 2||WCQ|
|Oct 16, 2012||Japan 0 - Brazil 4||FR|
|Returns:||Japan £12.22||Sign up to Paddy Power for £250 in free bets|
|Returns:||Draw £610.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
|Returns:||Azerbaijan £810.00||Sign up with William Hill for a free bet up to £25|
Many of the eyes in the stadium will be on Shinji Kagawa, but Honda's performance and connection with his team-mates after such a long time away from international competition will be of great interest to Alberto Zaccheroni.
Nadirov's fourth-minute goal in February's India friendly got Azerbaijan off to a roaring start; he'll need an even bigger miracle to help his team upset Japan.
Japan will cruise to an easy victory in a match that holds no real significance to anyone except Alberto Zaccheroni, who specifically requested the match-up.
Times In GMT
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed