Teguramori issues challenge to players before South Africa match


Japan’s Rio Olympic coach Makoto Teguramori urged his team to give him a selection headache with one, final captivating home performance against South Africa on Wednesday.

Ahead of Friday’s announcement of Japan’s 18 for the Summer Games, Teguramori said Tuesday he expects to see a glimpse of what the under-23 Asian champions can do in Rio de Janeiro, where they have been drawn with Nigeria, Colombia and Sweden in the first round.

South Africa has also qualified for its first Olympics since Sydney 2000, and could face Japan in the quarterfinals provided it makes it out of a group that includes hosts Brazil, Denmark and Iraq.

After Wednesday’s friendly, Japan will take on Brazil in Goiania before launching its Olympic campaign on Aug. 4 in Manaus against Nigeria.

Teguramori previously announced his three overage players for the under-23 competition: defenders Tsukasa Shiotani of Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Hiroki Fujiharu of Gamba Osaka, and Urawa Reds striker Shinzo Koroki.

“This is our final tuneup at home before the Olympics,” Teguramori said at Matsumotodaira Park Stadium. “I’ve been telling the team I want them to show in the match what they are capable of at the (Olympic) Games.

“This will be the last time we will be a genuine under-23 side. I’ve called up a total of 78 players and we owe our qualification for Rio to everyone of them.”

He added: “I have to narrow the team down to 18, but we all remain on the same page. This group of players is capable of performing better than they think they can, which is how we became champions of Asia.”

Teguramori envisions Bafana Bafana as a test for Nigeria, and is expecting the South Africa game to preview what Japan can or cannot do against athletic African teams.

“We must not be outrun because we’re at home and they’ve had a long trip to get here,” the former Vegalta Sendai boss said. “We’re grateful they’ve come and we have to outlast them for the entire 90 minutes.

“If we can’t score against them, the Nigeria game is going to be difficult for us. If we want to go to the Olympics with confidence, we will need a good game here.”

South Africa coach Owen da Gama said his team — near full-strength, according to the manager — hasn’t come all the way to Japan to be whipping boys for the hosts, insisting the game is an important part of its buildup for Rio.

“I think our team is ready now,” he said. “It’s just a matter of finalizing certain tactical aspects that we really want to work on. We cannot change after this; we have to make sure to take this opportunity to play against a highly organized team like Japan.”

“We watched them in Toulon where they played England, Paraguay and Guinea. We have a pretty good idea as to how they come and we’ve prepared very well. We take this very, very seriously. It’s a good opportunity for us and we would’ve liked to play two, three games here.

“We’ve basically come here to finalize our preparations.”

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