SAITAMA, Japan // Japan's opening World Cup qualifier against North Korea will go ahead as planned today after initial fears it would need to be put back a day due to an approaching typhoon.
The Japan Football Association said yesterday the game will proceed, despite Typhoon Talus being forecast to come close to Japanese coastal areas on Friday night.
Both Japan and North Korea qualified for the 2010 World Cup and will be favourites to progress from Group C, which also includes Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Japan, the reigning Asian champions, are unbeaten since Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni took over a year ago.
However, North Korea could provide a sterner test in Saitama, and Zaccheroni called up all of his big-name European stars such as Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund and CSKA Moscow's Keisuke Honda.
However, Honda was ruled out with a knee injury, while Kengo Nakamura will be missing due to a broken toe, and Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo is absent while recovering from a dislocated shoulder.
"North Korea did very well at the  World Cup and we won the Asian Cup, so teams are very motivated when they play us," said Zaccheroni.
"There are a lot of expectations of us, but we have to show character, good balance and show no fear ... We must prepare well and turn pressure into power."
In the other Group C game, Uzbekistan will make the relatively short journey to Tajikistan. The hosts are fortunate to be playing at all and only made it after Syria were disqualified after fielding an ineligible player in the earlier qualification rounds.