Japan our rivals but not reviled: Ange
Photo Source: AAP
Japan might be Australia's arch-rivals in Asia and their chief roadblock on the way to Russia.
But Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou has revealed his admiration for the Blue Samurai ahead of Tuesday's World Cup qualifier in Melbourne.
There's plenty of history but little animosity between Australia and Japan.
In 2006, the Socceroos left their mark in their first World Cup in 32 years when Tim Cahill sparked a come from behind success over Japan in Germany.
Five years later, the Blue Samurai denied Australia in the Asian Cup final with an extra-time heartbreaker to deny Australia its first piece of Asian silverware.
In 23 matches, the ledger is almost exactly even - with Australia taking seven wins, Japan eight, and eight draws.
Both Postecoglou and counterpart Vahid Halilhodzic shared their respect for the other side on Monday.
According to Halilhodzic, Australia is powerful, organised, disciplined and high quality.
There's little the Socceroos coach doesn't like about Japanese football.
"My view is the J-League is the strongest league in the region. I admire the way the league's run," Postecoglou said.
"It's only at a national team level we can justifiably challenge them at the moment.
"They're the number one country in youth development as well ... we're quite a way behind.
"But at national team level, we compete very well."
The respect isn't just talk.
The A-League and J-League signed a co-operation agreement earlier this year to strengthen technical and organisational ties and increase matches between the two countries at all levels.
While Tuesday's game - and the high stakes involved - has the potential to test the friendship, Postecoglou believes it's more likely to produce a stunner.
"I think there's a mutual respect there between the two nations, an admiration," he said.
"When I look at the players that are going to take the field I see a high quality game and a game that's going to excite the supporters."