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AFC U16 Championship

Japan ready for first AFC U16 title since 2006

07:20 GMT+3 20/09/2018
Japan U16, AFC 16 Championship
The Japanese team are off the back of a successful Middle East and are raring to pick up their first AFC U16 Championship trophy in 12 years.

For any Asian level tournament these days, a handful of teams are usually the favourites going into the competition regardless of the situation and it will be no different for Japan when the 2018 AFC U16 Championship kicks off later day in Malaysia.

The Samurai Blue have long established themselves as one of the true powerhouses of Asian football and they will be the one to fear in Group A where they are drawn together with host Malaysia, Thailand and Tajikistan. 

Japan kick off their campaign with a match against Thailand at UM Arena on Thursday and with a run of four consecutive wins against Yemen, Inda, Jordan and Iraq in the West Asian Football Federation U16 Championship last month, they are certainly coming into form at the right time.

Team captain and centre back Riku Handa is adamant that Japan are here for the only one thing - the trophy. The Montedio Yamagato youth player is certain that the preparations have gone well and the players have adapted to the weather in Kuala Lumpur.

"Of course we do want to qualify for the World Cup but our main goal is to win the whole tournament here. For us to that, we have to go game by game and the first game will be really crucial. We have a good preparation towards the first game against Thailand. As a whole team, we are ready,"

"As for the heat, we are getting used to it. The players are relaxed at the hotel and focussed on the training ground. I think we have prepared well," Handa told Goal after Wednesday's training session.

This Japanese team have a different look about them and the one thing that jumps out is their physicality. Possessing three tall and lanky goalkeepers as well as a whole host of players that looked physically matured beyond their age, Japan will be a tough proposition for any team in the competition.

They will face Tajikistan after Thailand on September 23 at UM Arena once again before a final group game showdown against Malaysia on September 26 at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.


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