Socceroos boss Ange Postecoglou believes Australia still has a way to go before matching the “strongest” domestic competition in the Asian region - the J-League.
On the eve of the crucial 2018 World Cup qualifier against Samurai Blue, Postecoglou says Australia needs to follow the example of Japan in order for the A-League to progress.
“I’ll speak personally about this, my view is the J-League is the strongest league in the region, I admire the way the league is run,” Postecoglou said.
“I think they’re the number one country in youth development as well, and I think it’s only probably as a national team where we can be challenging at the moment.
“I think our A-League is growing as we’ve already witnessed, and hopefully we'll become as strong a competition as the J-League is.
“We’re quite behind the youth development programs Japan has. For us it’s a little bit of respect there, recognising a strength of Japanese football and it’s growth, but also knowing that at national team level we compete very well.”
Postecoglou highlighted the rivalry Australia created with Japan after the close games dished up by the pair in the past.
He also spoke of the historic 3-1 comeback win in the 2006 World Cup in Germany after Tim Cahill netted two late goals to put Australia in front.
“With our entry into Asia, it coincided with a lot of things in our country, professional football league, our ability to qualify directly for a World Cup, we’ve never had it before,” he said.
“(The rivalry) started in the 2006 World Cup and it continued since, we haven’t beaten Japan in a while, but it’s been pretty close. Japan hasn’t won many times either, so I think there’s a mutual respect between the two nations and admiration.
“When I look at the players who’ll take the field tomorrow night, I think you’ll see a high quality game and a game that’s going to excite the supporters.”