Football: Japan to face Netherlands, Belgium

Football: Japan to face Netherlands, Belgium

TOKYO - Japan will face the Netherlands and World Cup seeds Belgium next month in another friendly tour of Europe, a month after their shock defeats by Serbia and Belarus.

"The objective of our overseas tour is to play top-level teams away," Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni said in a statement released by the Japan Football Association.

"We can accurately assess where we stand in the world," said the Italian coach, who has faced a clamour for his exit after the Blue Samurai's struggles in recent months.

The Asian champions, who have qualified for their fifth straight World Cup finals, will face world number-five Belgium in Brussels on November 19, three days after playing the Netherlands in Genk.

In September, the association announced the date with the Dutch, ranked eighth in the world. Japan are placed 44th, Asia's best rank.

"I think Belgium are the fastest growing team in Europe," said Zaccheroni, who coached AC Milan and other Serie-A sides before taking over the Blue Samurai after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"They are at the world's top level in terms of the quality of play as well as physical strength," he added in the statement released Monday. "They have an array of young talent, and I personally think they are the best Belgium team of all time. In World Cup qualifying, they moved through by controlling their group."

Japan and Belgium have met three times, drawing twice. Japan beat the Belgians 4-0 in Tokyo in 2009 when the visitors were ranked 62nd in the world.

Japan lost to the Netherlands in their past two encounters, including the 1-0 defeat in their group match at South Africa 2010.

Since losing all three group matches at the Confederations Cup in Brazil last June, Japan have four wins from 11 games.

They lost 2-0 to Serbia and 1-0 to Belarus earlier this month following friendly wins at home over lower-ranked Guatemala and under-strength Ghana last month.

In August, they bowed 4-2 at home to Uruguay led by Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.

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