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Japan's Kagawa hopes to heal old wounds in UAE rematch

FOOTBALL By Reuters | August 29th 2016
Japan's forward Shinji Kagawa (L) passes the ball during a training session at their training camp in Itu, Sao Paulo on June 22, 2014 as part of the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil. AFP PHOTO/ TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA

Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa is still haunted by his penalty shootout miss in the loss to the United Arab Emirates at last year's Asian Cup and is eyeing revenge when the teams meet again in a 2018 World Cup qualifier on Thursday.

Kagawa was in tears after his spot kick hit the post in Sydney as UAE claimed a 5-4 triumph on penalties following a 1-1 draw to end Japan's title defence and set up a semi-final showdown against hosts Australia.

"The (UAE) team was different then and so was our coach, the players and the situation but I can still see the torment in my mind," the Dortmund player was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency ahead of the Asian World Cup qualifier in Saitama.

"That was then but this is now and we just have to prepare well to beat them this time."

"I'm not sure who is in their team this time and we will have to have a look at some video footage but they have some good players and our coach will have to have a look at how we will take them on over the next few days."

After the UAE match, Japan travel to Bangkok to take on Thailand in their next Group B match five days later and Kagawa believes the four-time Asian champions need to be wary of their improving opponents.

"We cannot afford to lose these two games. The first one and second one we have to win," Kagawa added. "It is a long road (to Russia) in the qualifiers and we want to make a good start.

Australia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq are the other teams in the group with the top two finishers advancing to the finals in Russia, while the third-place side has a chance of progressing via two playoff rounds.

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