(Reuters) - Japan will need resilience and variety to claim a third successive World Cup qualifying victory when they host Thailand on Tuesday, Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa has said.
Japan are unbeaten in their last five qualifiers to sit second in Asian Group B, level on 13 points with leaders Saudi Arabia with four games remaining, while Thailand are bottom of the standings on just a single point.
The top two teams will qualify automatically for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the home side are fully expected to pick up three points against an outclassed Thai side in Saitama.
"I don't think they will be easy to break down at all," the 28-year-old Kagawa was quoted as saying by Kyodo news. "We will need variety.
"During these World Cup qualifiers, we've struggled to open up teams who sit back on us. We need to be on the same wavelength when we're trying to create opportunities for ourselves."
Kagawa, who started in Japan's 2-0 win over United Arab Emirates last week, felt that the squad was benefiting from an increase in the fight for starting places.
"The competition within the squad is tough now. No one is assured of a place and if you don't perform when you're picked, you won't be rated," he added.
"The most important thing right now is to qualify for the World Cup... But I have to find a way to show what I can do while making sure we qualify."
(Reporting by Aditi Prakash in Bengaluru)