Jun 11, 2013

    Brazil-bound Japan look to settle Iraq scores

    JAPAN booked their spot at the 2014 World Cup finals with a draw against Australia last week but the Asian champions have a score to settle in their final qualifier today and have no intention of going easy on Iraq in Doha.

    Iraq held Japan to a 2-2 draw in the Qatari capital 20 years ago in a game that denied the Japanese a place at the 1994 World Cup and was dubbed the "Agony of Doha" by the country's media.

    Two decades on, it is Group B basement dwellers Iraq who must beat Japan in Doha to give themselves any realistic chance of qualifying for Brazil next year.

    However, Japan are unlikely to show any sympathy, particularly with the Confederations Cup on the horizon.

    Keisuke Honda, whose injury-time penalty sealed Japan's World Cup finals spot, has been unable to train due to a thigh injury and Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa could take over the playmaker role.

    "Wherever I play, I will be ready," said Kagawa. "It's really important for us to win and I hope we can finish the qualifying campaign on a high note before going to the Confederations Cup."

    Japan took one of Group B's two automatic qualification spots but all four remaining teams - Iraq, Australia, Jordan and Oman - are in the running for the second berth.

    Oman are second on nine points from seven games, while Australia and Jordan are on seven, having played a game fewer. Iraq have five points with two games to play.

    The Socceroos face Jordan in Melbourne today.