Halilhodzic: Japan on different level from Group E opponents

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An optimistic revealed his desire to win “every match” in World Cup qualifying after was drawn with Afghanistan, Syria, Cambodia, and Singapore in Group E.

The Bosnian-born coach, who took his post in March, will be looking to lead the Samurai Blue to a sixth straight World Cup appearance.

“We’re in a good group,” Halilhodzic told reporters at Japan Football Association headquarters in downtown Tokyo. “Our opponents have some quality, but I don’t think they’re at our level.

“There’s no guarantee of winning but we want to play to win every match, especially when we’re away.

“I’ll be demanding a lot from our players in every match.”

The 62-year-old, who moved to France following the Bosnian War, expressed sympathy for Syria and Afghanistan, two countries whose home games are expected to be played in neutral locations.

“I experienced war in my home country,” the former Algeria tactician reflected. “It may be a new experience for Japan’s national team, but not for me.

“It’s disappointing that Syria and Afghanistan can’t play in their own countries.”

Halilhodzic also inadvertently revealed JFA plans for a June 11 friendly against Iraq in Yokohama; a media officer immediately informed journalists in attendance that negotiations are still underway for an opponent from Pot A which also included Australia, South Korea, China, Iran, Uzbekistan, and UAE.