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Takahara warns no mercy for Vietnam at Asia football Cup

15 July 2007 08:44

HANOI (AFP) - In-form Japan marksman Naohiro Takahara has warned tournament co-host Vietnam they will show no mercy when the two sides meet on Monday.

Vietnam will have a heaving sell-out crowd roaring them on at My Dinh National Stadium, but the Frankfurt striker said his side was experienced enough to shut them out and get on with their game.

"We have been through this many times. We'll just play our football and produce a result," said the 29-year-old, who has dazzled with 11 Bundesliga goals since moving from Hamburg last year.

He has also snagged three goals in Japan's opening two games here to put them level with dark horses Vietnam at one win and one draw each in Group B, with Monday's match pivotal to who tops the group.

"We must get a solid win and advance as the group's number one. It will give us an advantage in our battles ahead," said Takahara.

The top qualifying position will mean Japan is spared from having to travel to another country for the quarter-finals in a tournament also hosted by Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Vietnam, playing at the Asian Cup finals for the first time in 47 years, shocked Gulf Cup champions United Arab Emirates 2-0 and drew with 1-1 with Qatar, each before a sell-out crowd of 40,000.

"The next game will draw an enormous inflow of spectators," acknowledged Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura.

"In such an atmosphere, we need to play our game and kill the opponents' finesse. They steadily run and play a solid strategy."

Takahara and Nakamura, the only two European-based stars selected by coach Ivica Osim, have proved vital to the team, although the gruelling conditions in hot and humid weather has taken its toll.

Takahara has been struggling with a sore throat and fever, but said he would be ready for Monday.

"My condition is not alright yet. But I will be fine on match day," he said.

Takahara bagged five goals in the 2000 Asian Cup, one fewer than the tournament's top scorer Lee Dong-Gook of South Korea, who has yet to strike in the current campaign.

He skipped the 2004 edition in China after being picked for the Athens Olympic squad only to miss the event through illness.

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