Socceroos head coach Holger Osieck must re-structure his midfield if Australia is to have any sort of impact in their maiden East Asian Cup appearance.
Date: Thursday July 25 Kick-off: 9.00pm AEST Venue: Hwaseong Stadium , Hwaseong
Head-to-head: Played: 8, Wins: Japan 3, Australia 2, Draws: 3
Past five matches: Japan: Japan 3-3 China, East Asian Cup, Seoul, July 21 2013 Japan 1-2 Mexico, Confederations Cup, Belo Horizonte, 22 June 2013 Italy 4-3 Japan, Confederations Cup, Recife, 19 June 2013 Brazil 3-0 Japan, Confederations Cup, Brasilia, 15 June 2013 Iraq 0-1 Japan, World Cup qualifier, Doha, 11 June 2013
Australia: South Korea 0-0 Australia, East Asian Cup, Seoul, July 20 2013 Australia 1-0 Iraq, World Cup qualifier, Sydney, June 18 2013 Australia 4-0 Jordan, World Cup qualifier, Melbourne, June 11 2013 Japan 1-1 Australia, World Cup qualifier, Saitama, June 4 2013 Australia 2-2 Oman, World Cup qualifier, Sydney, March 26 2013
Analysis: Socceroos head coach Holger Osieck will look to re-structure his midfield if Australia is to have any sort of any chance of taking out the East Asian Cup in their maiden appearance in the tournament.
The Socceroos barely touched the ball throughout Saturday's 0-0 draw with hosts South Korea and only escaped with a point due to a phenomenal performance from goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic.
Galekovic made a string of impressive saves to keep a clean sheet in Seoul but Osieck will undoubtedly have been disappointed in the failure of his midfielders, Mark Milligan, Dario Vidosic and Ruben Zadkovich, plus substitute Erik Paartalu, to gain any sort of ascendency against the South Koreans.
Matt McKay, one of the few experienced players in Australia's squad, could be shifted centrally after struggling to get involved as a left-winger versus South Korea, while Aaron Mooy deserves a chance after a strong campaign with A-League premiers Western Sydney Wanderers last season.
Osieck may also be tempted to play Archie Thompson as the central striker against Japan as the Melbourne Victory veteran seemed almost stranded on the right wing in the Socceroos East Asian Cup opener.
If Thompson does play down the middle and McKay is picked in central midfield, Mitch Nichols, Craig Goodwin, Adam Taggart and Connor Pain could all play a role out wide.
For Japan head coach Alberto Zaccheroni, the focus since Sunday's 3-3 draw with China will have been on his team's defence. Japan have conceded 12 times in their past four games and threw away a two-goal lead in the last 10 minutes against China.
Japan went behind early on Sunday through a penalty from Wang Yongpo and while goals from Yuzo Kurihara, Yoichiro Kakitani and Masato Kudo looked to have put Zaccheroni's team on track for victory, China hit back.
Wang scored another penalty and Sun Ke slotted the equaliser in the 87th minute to secure a point, which has kept the East Asian Cup all square heading into the second round of games.
If Japan are as defensively frail on Thursday, Osieck and the Socceroos may fancy their chances of sneaking a win just as they threatened to in a World Cup qualifier at the start of last month.