Japan v Afghanistan: Hosts eye another clean sheet


Japan are keen to extend their run of clean sheets in World Cup qualifying when they host Afghanistan on Thursday.

Incredibly, Vahid Halilhodzic's men are yet to concede in the second round of qualifying.

They have scored 17 goals in their six games, five of which have been wins, and top Group E by a point.

Ahead of a clash against Afghanistan, a team they thrashed 6-0 when they met in September, Halilhodzic urged Japan to maintain their form.

"The important thing is to win the two matches and I want to continue our clean-sheet run during the qualifiers," he said.

"And we will be also ready to score as many goals as possible.

"Now, in the FIFA ranking, Japan is at second place in Asia. For the final qualifiers, we want to maintain this position as well."

In his 24-man squad, Halilhodzic has 11 players from the J.League.

But his attack in qualifying has been led by a star European-based trio.

Milan's Keisuke Honda, Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki and Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa have scored 11 of Japan's 17 goals.

Halilhodzic said he would give opportunities to players performing domestically.

"I am thinking to give chances to players who currently keep playing well for their own club," he said.

"It's up to players whether they grab that opportunity, but I am building various game plans where I give out such opportunities."

Japan's last two second-round qualifiers are being played in Saitama as they close in on progressing.

Afghanistan, meanwhile, have been eliminated after just two wins from their opening six games.

They beat Cambodia twice in the group, but that has not been enough for them to finish in the top two.

Japan scored six goals against Afghanistan last time and will be looking for similar on Thursday.