Coach Moriyasu of SAMURAI BLUE shares aspiration to “Fight through with persistency” ahead of match against Saudi Arabia – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)
21 January 2019
On Sunday 20 January, one day before their round of 16 match against the Saudi Arabia National Team at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, Coach MORIYASU Hajime of the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) appeared in an official press-conference at the match site, Sharjah Stadium, and demanded his players to “Fight through with their persistency under any given circumstances.”
Meanwhile, the team conducted an official training session on this day where the first 15 minutes was open to the media. Goalkeeper HIGASHIGUCHI Masaaki (Gamba Osaka) was seen training separately from the team, while AOYAMA Toshihiro (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) remained at the hotel to condition himself. However, OSAKO Yuya (Werder Bremen), who has been side-lined with a discomfort in his right hip, returned to training with his teammates, as he was seen going through drills with his cleats on.
Despite losing at the group stage of the FIFA World Cup 2018 last summer, under Coach Juan Antonio PIZZI, Saudi Arabia has continued to construct their football around a passing style that effectively utilises their speedy players upfront. With this year being their 10th consecutive Asian Cup appearance, the team is seeking to improve on their second-place finish at the 2007 tournament.
Ahead of their first match in the knockout stage, Coach Moriyasu shared his thoughts, “We will be facing an even more intense and difficult match. We must be fully committed, because we are going to face a very dangerous team.” The Japanese commander mentioned of the fact Saudi Arabia has lost their third group stage match against Qatar to advance through as the runners-up of Group E and pointed out, “They will certainly make the adjustments and enter the next match with more motivation to win.”
With Japan seeking for their fifth Asian Cup title, which will be their first in two tournaments, Coach Moriyasu stated, “We can’t be passive, but rather have a strong intention to win the match, even while we prepare ourselves.” The coach also shared his aspiration towards his players to “Showcase their persistency to fight through under any given circumstances,” which is a quality the team has shown at the group stage, where they won all three matches to advance to the round of 16.
On the other hand, Coach Pizzi of the Saudi Arabia National Team shared his take on the match, “We will continue to play our style of football where we control ball possession and apply pressure. We have made it this far with this style, so even if Japan is one of the tournament favourites, we will fight to win. I am confident with my team.”
Defender SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille) stated, “We are in a position where we cannot afford to lose, and we must show that on the pitch. We can’t move on without a win, so we will focus on keeping a clean sheet.” After scoring his first goal for the national side since 2015, forward MUTO Yoshinori (Newcastle United) mentioned, “One goal will determine the outcome. As a forward, my job is to score that goal. I hope to contribute to the Japan National Team.”
While Japan is ranked 50th in the FIFA rankings, Saudi Arabia sits at 69th, and Japan owns a track record of eight wins, one draw, and four losses over Saudi Arabia.
The round of 16 match against the Saudi Arabia National Team will kick-off at 15:00 (20:00 Japan time) on Monday 21.
Coaches and Players' Comments
MORIYASU Hajime, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
We have fought as a team and made it to the knockout stage. We will continue to give our best to prepare ahead of the round of 16, and I hope the players can play to their full potential tomorrow. The three matches we played at the group stage were very tough, but we will be facing an even more intense and difficult match tomorrow. We must be fully committed, because we are going to face a very dangerous team. Saudi Arabia is a strong team with many talented players. They will come out playing aggressively, both in offence and defence. Additionally, with them losing to Qatar in their third group stage match, they will certainly make the adjustments and enter the next match with more motivation to win. When facing such opponent, we can’t be passive, but rather have a strong intention to win the match, even while we prepare ahead of the match. Scoring goals are important, but we must also focus on not giving away goals. I want my players to keep in mind how persistent they played during the group stage. Their persistency has led us to win three matches, so I want them to continue on that aspect and keep on helping each other to fight through under any given circumstances. We will give the very best we’ve got at the current moment. I will determine the line-up that can give us the best chance to win the match tomorrow.
DF #5 NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.)
This match can very much be the turning point for the Japan National Team. A win can give us more opportunity to improve as a team, while a loss will end our journey here. The players must play under that pressure and the characters of each player will certainly be on display. This kind of pressure is necessary for a player to polish their concentration and improve as a player. We trained under a very intense atmosphere today. We must be able to keep our identity and fight through the entire 90 minutes.
DF #19 SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille)
As I always do, I will enter tomorrow’s match with the responsibility to win the match. Saudi Arabia is an Asian powerhouse, and they have always been a tough opponent to face for Japan. However, in order to move on, we must win against them tomorrow, so we will focus on earning results while improving the overall level of the team.
MF #8 HARAGUCHI Genki (Hannover 96)
Our next opponent is a very strong and attack minded team that will come out with great intensity. It will for sure be a tough match for us, so we must focus on keeping a clean sheet while playing with persistency. However, there will be chances coming our way, and the outcome of the match will be determined whether or not we convert those opportunities. In the knockout stage, our ability to become critical at those moments will be tested. We don’t know exactly how the match will turnout, but I believe that we have the adaptability to make the adjustments, so no matter how difficult the match may be, we will be seeking to winning the match.
MF #9 MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg)
Saudi Arabia has players with great speed and techniques upfront, and they are capable of moving the ball around better than our previous opponents. While our biggest goal is to win the match, I personally would like to get myself involved in our goals. That’s an aspect I will keep on insisting. One goal will have more meanings compared to the group stage, so it’s important that we capitalise our chances and fight for the ball tenaciously in front of the goal.
FW #13 MUTO Yoshinori (Newcastle United)
I will utilise the experience from four years ago and focus on each match. For now, I will give my very best in our next match against Saudi Arabia. We hope to earn the win as a team. It is a match we can’t afford to lose, and we will convert that pressure into power tomorrow.
Juan Antonio PIZZI, Coach of Saudi Arabia National Team
I am proud of the team for making it to the round of 16, but our goal is still ahead of us. Even though Japan is one of the tournament favourites, we have prepared ourselves for a long time, so we have great confidence heading into this match. We are all prepared for tomorrow. We will fight to win and showcase a fantastic match.
AFC ASIAN CUP UAE 2019
Tournament Dates: Sat. 5 January - Fri. 1 February 2019
Knockout Stage Round of 16:
Mon. 21 January Kick-off 20:00 (Japan Time)
vs Saudi Arabia National Team
Broadcasting: Televised Live at TV Asahi Group
BS Broadcasting: Televised Live at NHKBS1
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