FORMER Socceroos captain Alex Tobin would be delighted if Australia could salvage a draw against Japan in its World Cup qualifier in Saitama tomorrow night.
But Tobin, second on the list of most-capped Socceroos with 87 caps, said he believed there were many obstacles the men in gold needed to overcome.
"If they can take anything away from this game, that would be tremendous," Tobin, who is now the technical director for Football New South Wales, said.
"Technically, the Japanese are outstanding and are very difficult to beat at home. Their athleticism, pace and energy is also of a high standard.
"In the past you could probably physically bully them a bit, but not anymore."
Tobin, a former defender, played five times against Japan over the course of his 10-year international career, for a record of two wins, two losses and a draw.
He faced some household names in Japan including Hidetoshi Nakata and Kazuyoshi Miura.
"The country has come a long way with its football since then," Tobin said.
"The J-League took off in the early 1990s (1993) and now it's a fantastic competition, so they've almost got a 15-year advantage on us.
"And they develop players very well technically from a young age, which filters through to the national team."
Tobin has wonderful memories of that great day in Australian sporting history when the Socceroos won their first World Cup match, against the Japanese, in 2006.
"I was sitting behind the Australian goal and, from when we were down 1-0, to when we took the 3-1 lead, it was a strange period," he said.
"Suddenly we pushed up the park, became more direct and scored three goals as a result."
But that was during Australia's renowned golden generation.
Things are different now, with the team required to salvage points against Japan, then beat Jordan and Iraq at home, to qualify for Brazil 2014.
"It wasn't an inspiring performance in our last game against Oman (a 2-all draw)," Tobin said.
"Our defence could've been better. We can't just sit back and think 'let's just leave it to someone else' against Japan."
Tobin said he believed Harry Kewell, voted Australia's greatest ever footballer last year, could still play a part in next year's World Cup.
But he said the 34-year-old would quickly need to find a club if he wanted to do that.
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