Blue Samurai eye Olympic boost

Japan will look to take a giant stride towards a fifth consecutive appearance at the Olympic Games on Sunday.

Football News: Japan Olympic Team

Takashi Sekizuka's side travel to Amman to face fellow Group C contenders Syria at King Abdullah International Stadium.

The Blue Samurai moved three points clear of Syria at the top of the table after recording a 2-1 win in Tokyo in November thanks to an 86th minute strike from Germany-based Yuki Otsu after both sides had begun their campaigns with back-to-back wins over Bahrain and Malaysia.

Japan know a fourth consecutive victory at the weekend would open up a six point lead at the top of the table with just two games remaining and only the group winner is guaranteed a ticket to London.
Japan stepped up their preparations after sharing a goalless draw with fellow final round hopefuls Qatar, who earlier lost 5-0 to Sweden, in Doha at the end of January.

With only the three group winners qualifying directly for London and the runners-up entering a three-way play-off in Vietnam at the end of March to earn the right to face Senegal for a place at the 2012 Olympic Games, Syria will be keen to return to winning ways.

After opening their campaign with a 3-1 victory over Bahrain in Amman at the end of September, the Syrians beat Malaysia 2-0 in Kuala Lumpur.

Third-placed Bahrain, meanwhile, will look to capitalise on any points dropped in Amman as they begin a crucial run of back-to-back home games with the visit of Malaysia after staging a stunning comeback to win 3-2 in Kuala Lumpur at the end of November.

Elsewhere, Uzbekistan will look to build on a solid start in Group B as Australia swap the summer of the southern hemisphere for the freezing temperatures of Tashkent looking to dent the home side's hopes of a maiden appearance at the Olympic Games.

With the Uzbekistan national team following up their run to the semi-finals of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup by reaching for the fourth round of qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and domestic side Nasaf winning the 2011 AFC Cup, Uzbek football is thriving at continental level.

And the Olympic side will look to build on a solid start in Group B which has seen Abramov's side follow their opening day 2-0 win over Iraq with back-to-back goalless draws away from home against the United Arab Emirates and Australia.

Temurkhuja Abdukoliqov and Kenja Turaev scored in the second half against Iraq as Uzbekistan began the final round in style on home soil, before Abramov's side strengthened their position at the top of the table with creditable away draws against the UAE and Australia.

Australia, meanwhile, are still searching for a first goal of the final round after also sharing goalless draws with the UAE and Iraq, although Aurelio Vidmar's side sit just two points behind leaders Uzbekistan with three games remaining.

Vidmar has been forced into a change to his squad, who stepped up their preparations with a pre-match training camp in the UAE, with Central Coast Mariners midfielder Mustafa Amini replacing the injured Terry Antonis.

Amini, who was included in an extended full national team squad at the start of last year, is back on-loan at former club Central Coast Mariners until the end of the group stage of the 2012 AFC Champions League after joining Germany's Borussia Dortmund last year.

Second-placed Iraq, meanwhile, face the UAE in their adopted home of Doha looking to build on their 2-0 win in Al Ain on Matchday Three.

Finally in Group A, unbeaten leaders Korea Republic also begin a testing run of back-to-back away games with a trip to Dammam to face a Saudi Arabia side seeking their first win of the campaign.
Hong Myung-bo's side, who bounced back from their 1-1 draw with Qatar on Matchday Two with a 1-0 home win over Saudi Arabia at the end of November, made an ideal start to their preparations after beating Thailand and Norway and drawing with defending champions Denmark last month to win the King's Cup in Thailand.

Seo Jung-jin, who featured prominently for K-League side Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the knockout stages of the AFC Champions League last season, and FC Seoul's Kim Hyun-sung each scored twice over the three games, while Cerezo Osaka's Kim Bo-kyung and Gwanju's Kim Dong-sub were also on target for Korea in Thailand.

But with the 1-1 draw between Oman and Qatar on Matchday Three being overturned after the visitors were adjudged to have fielded an ineligible player in Muscat, Oman now sit just a point behind Korea with three games remaining ahead of their Matchday Four trip to Doha.


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