SPORTS

Canadian men Canada faces tough task against Japan in soccer friendly in Qatar

03/21/2013 05:11 EDT | Updated 05/21/2013 05:12 EDT
Canada continues its climb out of a soccer sinkhole on Friday as it takes on Japan in a friendly in Doha, Qatar.

While a young Canadian side lost to Denmark and tied the U.S. in January exhibition games, the trip to Qatar represents the first national team action for David Edgar, Julian de Guzman, Andre Hainault, Atiba Hutchinson, Will Johnson, Simeon Jackson and Tosaint Ricketts since an 8-1 humiliation in Honduras last October that marked the end of Canada's World Cup qualifying road.

Dejan Jakovic, Pedro Pacheco and Milan Borjan, who were on the bench that afternoon in San Pedro Sula, are also with the Canadian team in Doha.

"Those guys, they definitely want to paint a different picture from the one that we last saw," said acting coach Tony Fonseca, whose normal job title is Canadian technical director.

Japan is ranked 26th in the world, compared to No. 68 for the Canadians.

The game, at the majestic Khalifa International Stadium, will be followed by a match Monday against No. 62 Belarus at the city's Aspire Stadium.

Japan, the top-ranked team in the Asian confederation, is using the Canada game as a warmup for a March 26 World Cup qualifier in Jordan.

Alberto Zaccheroni, Japan's Italian coach, will be without injured CKSA Moscow playmaker Keisuke Honda and Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo for both matches. But he can count on Manchester United midfielder Shinji Kagawa and 12 other European-based pros.

Fonseca expects to face a technically gifted Japanese team with a penchant for short passes on the ground.

Japan currently leads Group B in Asian qualifying with a 4-0-1 record, having outscored its opposition 13-2.

Fonseca declined to say who will captain the squad, given veteran defender Kevin McKenna and goalie Lars Hirschfeld are not with the team, other than it will be a senior player.

That would suggest Hutchinson or de Guzman.

The Canadian coach said he plans to play his "top squad" rather than field a team with an eye to development.

The Canada roster is largely made up of European-based players other than Ashtone Morgan and Kyle Bekker of Toronto FC, Will Johnson of the Portland Timbers and D.C. United's Jakovic.

Friday's game is scheduled for 6 p.m. local time, which will give the Canadians a break from 28-29 C heat during the afternoon.

Facilities are excellent, Fonseca reports

"Everything we've seen so far is top-notch. The quality is fantastic. The field looks pristine. It's definitely a top-notch facility," said Fonseca. "And a country that has received us with great honour."

Still the stadium is due to go through an extensive renovation in advance of the 2022 World Cup.

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