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Soccer: Some like it hot, Al Habsi tells Japan

Wigan Athletic's goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi celebrates after team mate Ben Watson scored against Tottenham Hotspur during their English Premier
Wigan Athletic's goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi celebrates after team mate Ben Watson scored against Tottenham Hotspur during their English Premier

(Reuters) - Oman goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi has told runaway group leaders Japan to stop complaining about the heat ahead of Wednesday's World Cup qualifier.

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said on Tuesday that sweltering conditions will be his side's biggest challenge in their Group B clash under Muscat's fierce afternoon sun.

"Without a doubt the heat is my only concern," the Italian told a news conference. "You never know what kind of effect the hot weather will have on the game.

"I'm sure the game would be played at a different pace if it was being played at eight in the evening."

But Al Habsi, whose heroics have helped Oman preserve an unbeaten home record in Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, ticked off the Italian for playing mind games.

"It's not like June here when it's 50 degrees celsius," the Wigan Athletic goalkeeper said. "It's only 30, which is good for us and the Japan players.

"In the summer in Japan it is like that so they are used to it. It's no big difference."

Japan lead their group by five points after four matches played in the final round of regional qualifiers and a win would put the Asian champions on the brink of clinching their spot.

"I don't know how many points we need to qualify so I'm telling the players that each and every game is important," said Zaccheroni.

"This will be a tough game with Oman being at home but I'm demanding a result from the players," added Zaccheroni, who will be without injured Manchester United playmaker Shinji Kagawa.

Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda, who scored in the Blue Samurai's opening 3-0 home win over Oman and netted a hat-trick in a 6-0 thrashing of Jordan, promised to deliver.

"No team has won here so far and that gives us extra motivation," said the Moscow-based player. "We want to be the first ones to do it."

Japan have appeared at every World Cup since first qualifying for the 1998 finals in France.

However, Oman coach Paul Le Guen said his side would be no pushovers at home and had dreams of their own.

"I know the difference in potential between these two squads," said the Frenchman, whose side are level with Australia on five points. "I'm very motivated but also very humble.

"The difference was evident in the first game but we are playing at home and we believe it's possible. We have improved and we are still in the running to qualify."

(Reporting by Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Editing by Mark Meadows)

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