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'
|Valdes enjoying football again after injury nightmare|
|Emotional Cha retires ´a happy man´|
|Dortmund´s Kirch suffers knee injury|
|Newcastle need to be mentally prepared, says Williamson|
|Leno ´knows nothing´ of Real interest|
|Tunisia to compete in AFCON after apology|
|Van der Vaart not allowing future to affect his game|
|Vlaar: Sherwood has reduced stress levels|
|Roma hit by Gervinho hamstring blow|
|Jones optimistic over Everton´s strike partnership|
|Milik sustains knee ligament damage|
|Georgia fear stadium closure for Scotland clash|
|Zamparini: Juventus and Arsenal have bid for Dybala|
|South Korea 1 New Zealand 0: Lee nets late winner|
|Japan 5 Uzbekistan 1: Five-star hosts maintain Halilhodzic start|
|European clubs benefit from UEFA agreement|
|Vassell: Sky is the limit for Kane|
|Manchester United move would be an ´honour´ for Coentrao|
|Insigne out to bolster Napoli season after lay-off|
|Rooney warns Kane over ´clever´ Italy defenders|
|Rangers results reveal £500,000 Newcastle clause|
|Southampton announce £33.4m profit|
|´I am a very flexible man´ - Van Gaal|
|A-League Preview: Top spot up for grabs|
|Portugal - Cape Verde Preview: Andre and Oliveira eager for international bows|
|Puerto Rico 0 Canada 3: Floro´s men rout hosts|
|Xavi denies Al Sadd link|
|Fernando´s life ban upheld by CAS|
|Argentina - Ecuador Preview: Messi remains doubtful for friendly|
|Falcao equals Colombia´s all-time scoring record|
|Macedonia trip good learning curve - Postecoglou|
|Macedonia 0 Australia 0: Stalemate in Skopje|
|Del Bosque not out for Netherlands revenge|
|Burton Albion 1 Stevenage 1: Both teams score at wrong end in draw|
|Pekerman: I have no say on Falcao´s Manchester United future|
|Buffon has studied England new boy Kane|
|Conte urges patience from Italy fans|
|Johnson tasked with keeping Cheltenham up|
|Rooney not keen on Serie A switch|
|Kane to make first England start|
|Colombia 3 Kuwait 1: Spot-on Falcao equals Iguaran record|
|Goal-shy Barkley eyes striker´s role|
|UEFA opens disciplinary proceedings against Montenegro and Russia|
|Draxler and Choupo-Moting back in training|
|Ghana v Mali: Last chance to impress before Giresse return|
|Wilson: Gibraltar getting stronger|
|Mata confident of Spain future|
|Armenia coach Challandes resigns|
|Hiddink rubbishes talk of Dutch negativity|
|Portugal v Cape Verde: Santos set to rotate|
|Loren hails Moyes for Sociedad surge|
|Cruyff brands Netherlands ´a disgrace´|
|Kick It Out backs Barnes over race comments|
|Argentina v Ecuador: Messi remains doubtful for friendly|
|Coates backs Hughes ambition at Stoke|
|Atletico able to call on Saul again|
|Italy v England Preview: Kane set to start after dream debut|
|Zidane would accept Real job|
|Hernandez frustrated by lack of Real opportunities|
|Spartak donate money to 102-year-old fan after robbery|
|Clasie pulls out of Netherlands squad|
|Italy´s Bertolacci out of England friendly|
|Newcastle post record profit as Ashley debt stays the same|
|Al Sadd: We want Xavi to bring tiki-taka|
|Lacazette expected frosty Saint-Etienne reception|
|Barnes: I can´t get back into management because I´m black|
|Rooney praises England aggression|
|Southgate tips Kane for return to U21s|
|Mexico v Paraguay: Goals in order for Copa America aspirants|
|Netherlands - Spain Preview: Wijnaldum rallies behind under-fire Hiddink|
|Peru v Venezuela: Sanvicente wants Venezuelan response|
|Carvalho confident of playing Juventus|
|Neymar demands protection after Medel stamp|
|MLS Review: RSL, Fire secure breakthrough wins|
|Firmino firmly on radar - Dunga|
|O´Neill delighted with second-half display|
|First-half dominance pleases Deschamps|
|Muller criticises Germany profligacy|
|Euro 2016 Qualifying Review: Portugal go top, Gibraltar make history in defeat|
|Liverpool the only English club I could play for - Suarez|
|France 2 Denmark 0: Lacazette off the mark in routine victory|
|Republic of Ireland 1 Poland 1: Long rescues vital point|
|Portugal 2 Serbia 1: Coentrao puts hosts top of Group I|
|Strachan hails ´terrific´ Gibraltar|
|Lafferty back playing with a smile on his face - O´Neill|
|Toure to reveal Ivory Coast future over coming days|
|Georgia 0 Germany 2: Reus and Muller on target for world champions|
|Northern Ireland 2 Finland 1: Lafferty inspires fourth qualifying success|
|Scotland 6 Gibraltar 1: Casciaro´s historic moment outshone by Fletcher´s hat-trick|
|France 2-0 Denmark: Lacazette and Giroud on target|
|Firmino hopeful of Copa America spot|
|Hummels considering options at Dortmund|
|Suarez goalless on Anfield return, but Balotelli nets stunner|
|Casciaro scores first competitive goal for Gibraltar|
|Fleetwood Town 1 Preston North End 1: Ball stunner claims share of derby spoils|
|Italy v England: Judge me on results, says Conte|
|Colombia v Kuwait: Falcao seeking another strong showing|
|Brazil 1 Chile 0: Firmino settles scrappy affair|
|Luxembourg v Turkey: Let´s kick on, urges Terim|
|South Africa 1 Nigeria 1: Zungu strikes late to earn draw|
|Smalling wants long-term United stay|
|South Africa 1-1 Nigeria: Last-gasp Zungu goal cancels out Musa strike|
|Italy call up Santon and Abate for England friendly|
|Switzerland v United States: Klinsmann eyes learning curve|
|Netherlands v Spain: Hiddink has players´ support, says Wijnaldum|
|A-League Review: Sydney end Wellington run, Adelaide suffer injury blows in Jets win|
|Henderson eyes long-term Liverpool future|
|I have nothing to prove - Bale|
|Brazil 1-0 Chile: Firmino gives Selecao battling victory|
|South Korea v New Zealand: All Whites looking to future|
|Japan v Uzbekistan: Hosts eye another win under Halilhodzic|
|MLS Review: Kaka nets in Orlando draw|
|Mexico 1 Ecuador 0: Hernandez, Corona help Herrera´s men to victory|
|Deschamps calls for France response|
|Dunga unfazed by pressure|
|Montenegro fan turns himself in after flare incident|
|Injured Messi not ready - Martino|
|Hodgson: Rooney not close to Charlton|
|Terim proud of Turkey|
|Hiddink happy with point|
|Euro 2016 Qualifying Review: Netherlands and Italy stage late escapes|
|Debutant Eder delighted with Azzurri bow|