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'
|Monk: Swansea will not recall Michu|
|Colombian Primera A Review: Santa Fe, Medellin still perfect in semis|
|Brazilian Serie A Review: Cruzeiro rally to beat Gremio|
|Lallana: ´I´ve got friends´ at Southampton|
|Boca Juniors 0 River Plate 0: Honours even in Superclasico|
|Costa Rican Primera Division Review: Alonso scores 10th goal in Alajuelense win|
|Guarani 3 Cerro Porteno 4: Late Ortigoza goal lifts Astrada´s men to summit|
|Defensa y Justicia 1 Newell´s Old Boys 0: Pellegrino saves late penalty|
|Wigan owner Whelan apologises for comments|
|Brown extends Celtic contract|
|Maidstone United 2 Stevenage 1: Seventh-tier outfit spring Cup shock|
|Sheffield United retract Evans offer|
|Blanc confident on Ibrahimovic fitness|
|Bayern Munich v Hoffenheim: Gisdol not expecting advantage from Lahm absence|
|FIFA widens access to Ethics Committee report|
|Brandao appeal rejected by FFF|
|Struggling Bulgaria sack Penev|
|Wigan sponsor quits after Mackay appointment|
|Chelsea v West Brom: Leaders out to maintain perfect home record|
|Falcao still two weeks away from return|
|Arsenal v Manchester United: Van Gaal unsurprised by Welbeck impact|
|Lazio v Juventus: Marchisio ready for tough trip|
|Castan set for brain surgery|
|Paderborn v Borussia Dortmund: Breitenreiter hoping for off-colour visitors|
|Lambert ´annoyed´ by Senderos injury|
|Leicester City v Sunderland: Pearson eager to ´reignite the confidence´|
|Stoke chairman Coates charged with misconduct|
|Manchester City v Swansea City: Monk takes no heart from Pellegrini injury woe|
|Barcelona v Sevilla: No divided loyalties for on-loan duo|
|Blind sidelined by knee injury|
|Verratti unavailable for Metz visit|
|Monaco dealt Kurzawa injury blow|
|Bony rumours will not stop - Monk|
|Pearson confident Leicester can turn their form around|
|Indian Super League Preview: Herbert seeks home comforts, Garcia urges Kolkata focus|
|League One Preview: Ferguson buoyed by McLean return, Bristol City host Preston|
|Newcastle United v QPR: Redknapp out to end hosts´ winning run|
|Bundesliga Preview: Dortmund look to build form, Bayern host Hoffenheim|
|Serie A Preview: Mancini reign to begin with Milan derby|
|Reus fit for Paderborn clash|
|Giroud could be back to face United|
|Milito: Mancini can inspire Inter revival|
|Everton v West Ham: Martinez faced with injury concerns|
|Moussi pledges salary to charity after joining Birmingham|
|Van Gaal questions Coach of the Year nomination|
|Eredivisie Preview: Difficult run continues for struggling Dordrecht|
|Alcacer returns to Valencia with hamstring injury|
|Stoke City v Burnley: Dyche urges bottom side to play with freedom|
|Reid contract delay ´probably down to money´|
|Downing has not blown England chance - Allardyce|
|Ribery not intimidated by Reus rumours|
|Eibar v Real Madrid: Leaders eye 14th win in a row|
|Buffon and Chiellini pen Juve extensions|
|Redknapp: Austin can be great like Ferdinand|
|Moreno targets attacking contribution|
|Martinez dismisses Keane ´nonsense´|
|Lahm undergoes successful ankle surgery|
|J.League Preview: Gamba out to deny Urawa title, Cerezo face Vegalta|
|Atletico Madrid v Malaga: Jimenez targets domestic run after Mexico brace|
|No January transfers for Real, says Ancelotti|
|Pardew compares Newcastle to Bayern Munich|
|Wenger not keen on deeper role for Wilshere|
|Pellegrini not giving up on title|
|I have learned my lesson, says Smalling|
|Mourinho good for Oscar, Willian - Ronaldo|
|Copa Argentina Review: Rosario Central, Huracan poised to meet in final|
|A-League Preview: Winless Wanderers eyeing Jets|
|Ecuadorian Primera A Review: Independiente del Valle still in control|
|Zamora 2 Caracas 1: Costly loss for visitors|
|Atletico Nacional 1 Sao Paulo 0: Ruiz puts Colombians in box seat|
|Sporting switch right option - Nani|
|K. League Preview: Sangju Sangmu desperate for win|
|Barca ´just another game´ - Deulofeu|
|Ligue 1 Preview: Marseille face Bordeaux amid off-field chaos|
|Aldershot 1 Portsmouth 0: Former winners out in first round|
|AFCON Qualifiers Review: Holders Nigeria crash out, Egypt fall short|
|Neuer boost for Bayern|
|Nigeria 2 South Africa 2: Defending champions fail to reach AFCON finals|
|Kick It Out calls for FA response to Mackay appointment|
|Ghana 3 Togo 1: Wakaso shines as Black Stars seal AFCON spot|
|Bony pens Swansea extension|
|League Two Preview: Leaders Luton visit Hasselbaink´s Burton SUBBED SEND THURS|
|Atletico hit by Miranda injury blow|
|Sturridge suffers fresh injury setback|
|Chennaiyin 3 Pune City 1: Hosts go top despite Elano, Mendoza injuries|
|Championship Preview: Mackay begins with tough Boro test|
|Ukraine sanctioned by UEFA for crowd disturbances|
|Metz v Paris Saint-Germain: Champions look to crank up pressure on Marseille|
|Dortmund, Galatasaray fined by UEFA|
|Fletcher fitness boost for Sunderland|
|Wigan turn to Mackay|
|Lennon running the rule over Gudjohnsen|
|Pulis: Shawcross should commit to Wales|
|Thohir: Inter objectives the same for Mancini|
|Sinclair hints at City exit|
|Sandro: QPR are a different team|
|Sammer signs Bayern extension|
|England to face France and Germany|
|Bergara pleased with Moyes impact|
|Western Sydney Wanderers 0 Central Coast Mariners 0: Stalemate in Parramatta|
|Alonso surprised by Neuer quality|
|Valbuena happy with positive French year|
|Shaw hopeful of facing Arsenal|
|Martino: Difficult for Messi to leave Barcelona|
|Conte wants change in Italy preparations|
|La Liga Preview: Moyes, Sociedad visit Deportivo La Coruna|
|More to Rooney than goals, says Hodgson|
|Club before country for Sydney FC marquee Janko|
|I chose to give Silva armband - Neymar|
|Klinsmann: USA have to be ´nastier´|
|Panama 0 Canada 0: Hosts hold on despite red card|
|Peru 2 Paraguay 1: Ascues inspires nine-man hosts|
|Bolivia 3 Venezuela 2: Arce ends long wait for win|
|Chile 1 Uruguay 2: Gonzalez gives visitors late win|
|Deschamps: 2014 positive for France|
|O´Neill praises debutant Christie|
|Low revels in perfect finish to 2014|
|Varane pride after captain´s contribution|
|England´s intensity ´spooked´ us - Strachan|
|Dunga plays down Miranda injury|
|Di Maria, Martino play down injury fears|
|Spain are in transition, says Del Bosque|