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Japan ready for "final" against Yugoslavia

© Reuters Limited 2001

By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO, July 3 (Reuters) - Japan's coach Philippe Troussier says his ever-improving side are full of confidence ahead of Wednesday's Kirin Cup decider against Yugoslavia. The Frenchman told reporters on Tuesday that he expects his players to overcome the fatigue factor and build on the momentum they have had since reaching the final of the Confederations Cup last month.

Japan lost 1-0 to France in the Yokohama final on June 10, but only after beating the likes of Cameroon and Australia along the way. "Tomorrow is our third final in the past eight months, if you count the Asian Cup and the Confederations Cup. We want to lift this trophy," said Troussier. The Asian champions, who beat Paraguay 2-0 in Sapporo on Sunday, only need to draw against Yugoslavia at Oita's Big Eye Stadium on Wednesday to win the Kirin Cup. Yugoslavia, beaten 2-0 by the Paraguayans in the opening match last Thursday, must win by three clear goals if they are to win the three-nation tournament on goal difference. However, Troussier warned his players against over-confidence, pointing out that Yugoslavia have had an extra three days rest.

"Physical conditioning will play a big part tomorrow, so substitutions will be key. The players are used to these big games now, but they must respect Yugoslavia," he said. Troussier admitted he was upset that some of the Japan players claimed that the Paraguay game had been "easy." "That's a very bad sign. You have to show respect to all opponents. The players need to remember how many mountains they had to climb to get where they are now," he said. "To me it shows they still lack experience. They should stop believing the rubbish they read in the papers," said Troussier.

Gamba Osaka midfielder Junichi Inamoto, currently being linked with a move to Arsenal, is likely to be asked to shadow Yugoslavian veteran Dragan Stojkovic, who will be playing his final international on Wednesday. But Feyenoord-bound Shinji Ono could be the one to unlock the Yugoslavian defence after setting up both goals for Atsushi Yanagisawa on Sunday. Troussier, who has turned Ono from a central midfielder into a wing-back since the start of the Confederations Cup, agreed that the Urawa Reds star had grown in stature since moving out to the left.

"That's his best position considering the balance of my team. I asked Shinji if he wanted to play on the left or sit on the bench. He chose the left," joked Troussier. "Ono has more options on the left, where he's got more room. It's not a pressure position. It lets him be more flexible. He is so talented he can play anywhere."

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