HANOI (AFP) - Naohiro Takahara and Shunsuke Nakamura are proving why they have made the grade in Europe after guiding Japan to a 3-1 victory over UAE to finally wring a smile from coach Ivica Osim.
Frankfurt striker Takahara struck twice in Friday's victory while Celtic star Nakamura orchestrated from midfield.
"Takahara is not playing in Germany just by chance. That is the killer instinct that helps him do so," said an unusually elated Osim.
Nakamura set up Takahara's first goal and scored himself from the penalty spot as Japan bounced back from a disappointing 1-1 draw with Qatar in their Group B opener last Monday.
The performance of Takahara, who also bagged a goal against Qatar, was all the more impressive given he was ill.
He asked Osim to take him off after an hour due to weariness in the hot and humid tropical weather and because he had a fever.
"If he cannot play, it will be a big problem for us," admitted the 66-year-old Osim, who is not known for explict praise of his players.
"I have to fill it in and I have a number of options."
The victory signalled a shift in the mood of the Blue Samurai who Osim called a "bunch of amateurs" after they squandered several chances and allowed Qatar to salvage a point with a last-gasp free kick.
Japan face co-hosts and Asian Cup revelation Vietnam on Monday in the battle to top the group, with both sides on four points.
"I had a fever but it's coming down now. I couldn't sleep at all the night before and my throat got sore," revealed Takahara.
"I will definitely prepare for the next match. I won't rest up at all," said the 28-year-old, whose career has blossomed with 11 Bundesliga goals since moving from Hamburg at the start of the last season.
"Vietnam are a team who play to the limit. They move well as they are used to the weather. They have individual skills and pass the ball around," he added.
"We need to closely study them and play a kind of football they feel as nasty."
Nakamura, 29, whose dead-ball skill helped earn Celtic their second straight Scottish Premier League title last season, said Takahara had "already gone beyond the Japanese level.
"He looks like strikers in Italy," said the former Reggina midfielder.
Osim, who took over from Brazilan legend Zico after Japan's winless exit from the World Cup in Germany last year, said his squad ran the Gulf Cup champions into the ground, a tactic he has long emphasised.
"We moved the ball more than the opponents and made them run more to tire them out," said Osim, a former Strasbourg star who led the former Yugoslavia to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals.
"We managed to play the game at our pace and won as a result," he added. "But if the UAE opened up first, I am not sure how the game would have gone."
The draining evening match was played in temperatures of 30 degrees Centigrade (86 F) with 85 percent humidity.
"Most of all, I am happy that it has ended without any of our players and staff suffering a heart attack," quipped Osim.
"It was such harsh weather conditions."
|8||Haider Alo Ali||52'|
|15||Mohamed Al Shehhi|
|Coach: B. Metsu|
for Khalid Darwish 46'
for Essa Ali 46'
for Mohamed Al Shehhi 56'
|I´m glad Rochdale haven´t made the news - Hughes|
|Getafe 2 Celta Vigo 1: Hosts come from behind for first win in 10|
|Real hit back at media reports over transfer dealings|
|Rochdale 1 Stoke City 4: Joy and angst for Bojan as Premier League side progress|
|Turkish Super Lig Review: Kuyt at the double in Fenerbahce win, Besiktas back on track|
|Senegal v Algeria: Morale is high, insists Gourcuff|
|Cassano leaves beleaguered Parma|
|Copa del Rey Preview: Atleti look to overturn Barca advantage, Espanyol wary|
|Atletico Madrid v Barcelona: Griezmann targets second-leg fightback|
|Sheffield United v Tottenham: Clough expects fired-up Spurs for second leg|
|Cape Verde 0 Zambia 0: Stalemate sends both sides out|
|Democratic Republic of Congo 1 Tunisia 1: Both teams qualify for quarter-finals|
|FA Cup fifth round: Middlesbrough handed Arsenal test|
|South Africa v Ghana: Must-win game for Mashaba´s men|
|Parma v Juventus: Serie A leaders strong favourites to reach semi-finals|
|Van Praag planning to stand for FIFA presidency|
|Inter snap up Brozovic|
|Van Persie unsure of long-term United future|
|Broken metatarsal rules El Shaarawy out for at least six weeks|
|FIFA: No disciplinary proceedings against Real|
|No Plan B if Guardiola goes - Rummenigge|
|Millwall take Hooiveld on loan|
|Chile v United States: Klinsmann has high hopes for young stars|
|Carver to lead Newcastle until end of season|
|Shenaishil taking positives from last-four exit|
|Neymar happy with life at Barca and Messi relationship|
|Lucas Silva ready for life at Real|
|Milan ´always with Inzaghi´ - Menez|
|Rodriguez living the dream at Real|
|Stielike expecting Australia in final|
|Mourinho not dwelling on Bradford defeat|
|Schweinsteiger under no pressure to extend Bayern contract|
|Herd heads to Wigan on loan|
|Inter defensive duo suffer hamstring tears|
|UAE coach Ali eyes Asian Cup final|
|Gattuso dreaming of managing Rangers|
|Fiorentina agree return of Gilardino on loan|
|Sakho hits back at critics|
|South Korea 2 Iraq 0: Kim books sixth Asian Cup final place|
|Sturridge could return against Chelsea|
|Zinnbauer backs Drobny as Hamburg first choice|
|Drogba targeting Chelsea stay|
|Postecoglou confident Australia squad can progress|
|UEFA does not have the courage to run against me - Blatter|
|Foster: Anichebe unplayable|
|Australia v UAE: Japan´s absence a boon for Asian Cup hosts|
|Milan v Lazio: Injury-hit visitors aiming for back-to-back wins|
|Trezeguet confirms retirement|
|No ´major problems´ with Nicolas Frey´s head wound|
|Strootman injury not "serious" - Garcia|
|No Paraguay, USA for retiring Riquelme|
|Saint-Etienne did not try to play football - Blanc|
|Primeira Liga Review: Sporting move within one point of Porto|
|La Liga Review: Parejo downs Sevilla, Resino starts with a point|
|Serie A Review: Juve go seven points clear as Roma draw again|
|Ligue 1 Review: Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon make Marseille pay for slip-up|
|Burkina Faso coach puts AFCON exit down to bad luck|
|Saint-Etienne 0 Paris Saint-Germain 1: Ibrahimovic scores in repeat performance|
|Shenaishil optimistic despite Kasim absence|
|Walcott: Goal has been a long time coming|
|DR Congo v Tunisia: Leekens warns against complacency|
|Congo 2 Burkina Faso 1: Thievy helps send 2013 runners-up crashing out|
|Gabon 0 Equatorial Guinea 2: Balboa and Iban put hosts through|
|McCarthy and Distin on road to recovery|
|Gil has hit the ground running - Lambert|
|Eredivisie Review: Ajax and Feyenoord lose ground after dour draw, Eagles secure big win|
|Wenger confirms Gabriel move is imminent|
|Eto´o presented to Sampdoria fans|
|Cape Verde v Zambia: Victory a must for 2012 winners to avoid elimination|
|Brighton and Hove Albion 2 Arsenal 3: Walcott and Ozil among the goals for holders|
|Mancini upbeat despite ´cruel´ late defeat|
|Pogba revelling in rich vein of form|
|Aston Villa 2 Bournemouth 1: Gil helps under-fire Lambert breathe easy|
|Defour dismissed after Standard Liege banner taunt|
|Allardyce relieved with scrappy West Ham win|
|Sturridge ´happy man´ after return to Liverpool training|
|Inter 0 Torino 1: Moretti ends unbeaten run for top-four hopefuls|
|Juventus 2 Chievo 0: Pogba inspires victory as leaders march on|
|Bristol City 0 West Ham 1: Super sub Sakho sinks City|
|Hughes in talks over new Stoke deal|
|Delph signs new contract|
|Chelsea v Liverpool: Mourinho demands League Cup response|
|Football League Preview: Derby eye top two, Cambridge back to reality|
|Nani not giving up on Old Trafford career|
|Perth Glory 3 Melbourne Victory 3: Leaders stage two-goal late comeback|
|Neymar: Barca have no interest in Real results|
|Milan defender Mexes apologises for red card|
|South Korea v Iraq: Strange lead-up for Shenaishil´s men|
|Lazio´s Djordjevic thanks well-wishers ahead of ankle surgery|
|Iran´s Asian Cup appeal dismissed by AFC|
|Cech urges Chelsea to clean up FA Cup exit ´mess´|
|Henderson: Liverpool are up for the cup|
|Edimar wants ´normal´ ban for Real star Ronaldo|
|Pellegrini defends misfiring City strikers|
|Australia ready for UAE - Sainsbury|
|Blanc takes positives from past|
|Inzaghi promises ´something different´ at Milan|
|Mexes sorry for seeing red|
|La Liga Review: Wins for top three|
|Vitoria Guimaraes 2 Gil Vicente 2: Last-gasp penalty salvages point for hosts|