Japanese socceroos to sweat for London Olympic spot

Updated: 2011-07-08 17:30


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Japanese socceroos to sweat for London Olympic spot

Japan's coach Takashi Sekizuka gestures during their 2012 London Olympic Games qualifying soccer match against Kuwait at Mohammed Al-Hamad stadium in Kuwait City, June 23, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

TOKYO - Japan will have to survive more furnace-like conditions to reach next year's London Olympics after being drawn with Syria, Bahrain and Malaysia in the final round of Asian qualifiers.

Japan's under-22 coach Takashi Sekizuka was taking nothing for granted after Thursday's draw, even though his side will be favourites to advance to their fifth successive Olympics.

"Drawn with two Middle Eastern teams and Malaysia, another hit and humid country," the 50-year-old told Japanese media. "I expect some very difficult matches for sure.

"The final round is a long slog. It's important for me to keep the team in the best condition for each match, rather than worrying too much about how our opponents play."

Japan squeaked into Group C of the final round of Asian qualifiers by beating Kuwait 4-3 on aggregate last month.

The final round of Asian qualifiers will be played between Sept 21 and March 14 on a home-and-away basis.

The winners of each of three four-team groups qualify for the Olympics. Japan will face Egypt's under-22 side in a final tune-up in Sapporo on Aug. 10.

Asian groups:

Group A - South Korea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman

Group B - Australia, Iraq, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates

Group C - Japan, Bahrain, Syria, Malaysia

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