Tomiyasu’s first National Team goal sends SAMURAI BLUE into Quarterfinals with win over Saudi Arabia – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)
22 January 2019
On Monday 21 January, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) played their round of 16 match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 against Saudi Arabia National Team at Sharjah. Defender TOMIYASU Takehiro (Sint-Truidense V.V.) recorded his first national team goal to send his side into the quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory. With this win, Japan will now face the Vietnam National Team at the Quarterfinals on Thursday 24 in Dubai.
It was their persistency that gave the Japanese side the victory once again, as they managed to hold onto the sole goal scored in the first half against the Saudi Arabian side who showed their dominance in ball possession.
In their first match in the knockout stage, Japan introduced a similar line-up from their second group stage match against Oman. The only change made was in their lone striker position, as MUTO Yoshinori (Newcastle United), who scored the equaliser in their third match against Uzbekistan, was given the start to replace KITAGAWA Koya (Shimizu S-Pulse).
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia made three changes from their final group stage match against Qatar, as midfielder Salem AL-DAWSARI returned from suspension, while defender Yasser AL-SHAHRANI came back from an injury.
The match started out with Saudi Arabia taking control of the ball possession to seek for their opportunities. In the early minutes, Mohammed AL-FATIL struck a header off a freekick, followed by an opportunity created in the right flank by Mohammed AL-BREIK, showing intense battle against HARAGUCHI Genki (Hannover 96) and NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.).
In the 12th minute, following a Saudi Arabian attack initiated from the left flank, midfielder Abdulaziz AL-BISHI fired a powerful shot off a loose ball, but the Japanese captain, YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC) was there to block the shot.
Despite allowing Saudi Arabia to take the initiative of the match, Japan kept their composure to defend against the opposing offence. Perhaps with the hot weather in consideration, Japan kept their focus on defence while anticipating for their opportunities from counter attacks.
Following the 15-minute mark, Japan started to create opportunities from turnovers, as they initiated their attacks through DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen) and SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille) at the right side.
In the 19th minute, Haraguchi responded to a free kick delivered by SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.) to earn a corner kick. From this corner kick, it was Tomiyasu who connected with the ball delivered by Shibasaki to give Japan the opening goal. The 20-year old defender later reflected on the scene, “They came out man-marking, but their mark was a little loose,” as his goal at 20 years and 77 days became the youngest goal scored for the Japan National Team, renewing the record previously owned by his fellow teammate, Doan.
Japan started to increase their intensity in offence, as Shibasaki sent a long ball upfront in the 29th minute, allowing Doan to send a cross ball towards the box, but the attempt made by Muto was called as a foul against the goalkeeper.
Towards the end of the first half, Saudi Arabia created an opportunity when Hattan BAHEBRI struck a left footed shot in the 35th minute, but his effort sailed outside of the target.
At the start of the second half, Saudi Arabia opened the action with a shot taken by Al-Dawsari following a corner kick, but the Japanese goalkeeper GONDA Shuichi (Sagan Tosu) was there to make the save. The match continued with Saudi Arabia dominating the ball possession, as Al-Dawsari made an attempt at goal in the 62nd minute, followed by a long-range effort made by Bahebri in the 65th minute, but Japan maintained their concentration to keep the clean sheet intact.
In the 76th minute, Japan made their first change, as ITO Junya (Kashiwa Reysol) was brought onto replace MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg) who was seemingly fatigued. The Japanese side created numbers of opportunities to counter attack, but their attempts came short from threatening the opposing goal.
A close opportunity came in the 86th minute, when ENDO Wataru (Sint-Truidense V.V.) connected with a free kick delivered by Shibasaki, but his effort failed to capture the target.
Saudi Arabia attacked tenaciously until the end, as Al-Dawsari and Bahebri struck consecutive shots following a counter attack in the 87th minute, but Yoshida and Nagatomo threw out their bodies to block the shots. In additional time, an attempt was made by Al-Breik from the right side, but Gonda made a superb save to keep the one-goal lead alive, as Japan managed to win the match with a final score of 1-0, making it through to the quarterfinals for the eighth straight tournament.
It was announced that midfielder AOYAMA Toshihiro (Sanfrecce Hiroshima), who was out of the squad due to an injury to his right knee, will be returning to Japan after this match.
Coaches and Players' Comments
MORIYASU Hajime, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
At the knockout stage, winning the match is the most important thing. Facing an Asian powerhouse like Saudi Arabia, our players showcased their persistency and played very tough to earn a clean sheet victory. We managed to apply great pressure in both offence and defence, while responding well against the Saudi Arabian attacks that took advantage of their high ball possessions. Our side also managed to display the ability to initiate our attacks from turnovers forced in the defensive end. Although we didn’t create as much in the second half, we saw some great opportunities created through those plays in the first half. The players did a great job to understand the game flow after we gained the lead. We were forced to be on the defensive end for a long time, but the players showed their ability to play with great persistence and kept a clean sheet. This result gives us more options as we move forward in this tournament. We will be facing a Vietnam side who has a very solid defence line. Facing such team, we must keep the ball moving and be creative to break down their defence. Having just two-days rest, we will be getting fewer time than our opponents to recoup and prepare ourselves ahead of the next match, but we will give our very best to get ready and win our next match as well.
DF #16 TOMIYASU Takehiro (Sint-Truidense V.V.)
We weren’t expecting to get dominated as much as we did today, but we managed to maintain our concentration level and fight with composure. We were able to stay ahead of the game and gave out very few chances for our opponents to break us down. It means a lot for us that we managed to keep a clean sheet in tough matches like today. However, we still haven’t won anything yet, so we will feed off of this match and prepare ourselves ahead of the next match.
DF #22 YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC)
Our opponents were very good at moving the ball around. We must keep a sense of urgency because the level of Asian football has gotten much higher over the years and we no longer have a big advantage over other countries. However, after watching our side take down a tough match like this with a goal scored from a set-piece, gives us great confidence, as these types of matches are necessary for both the team and individuals to grow. It would have been ideal, if we could have scored the second goal off a counter attack, but we have to thank our attacking players for giving their best efforts to help out the defence.
MF #8 HARAGUCHI Genki (Hannover 96)
I feel that our team was able to get smarter through this match, as we managed to insist on winning the match today. In tournaments, those types of goals are crucial, and it makes us feel that all the hours spent in trainings have really paid off. Ahead of our next match, we must recover ourselves both physically and mentally.
MF #17 AOYAMA Toshihiro (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
I was worried that my departure would create distraction for the team, but the team performed great and gave me strengths instead. I would like to thank for this opportunity that allowed me to fight and share the joy with everybody. I hope this team will go onto the final and win the title.
Juan Antonio PIZZI, Coach of Saudi Arabia National Team
It is disappointing that our tournament run ends here, but the players did a great job and I am satisfied with their performance. Japan is one of the best teams in Asia and they are the tournament favourites. Facing such team, our players did well to execute the game plan and express my philosophy. We managed to dominate the ball possession and take control of the match but lacked quality to convert our chances.
AFC ASIAN CUP UAE 2019
Tournament Dates: Sat. 5 January - Fri. 1 February 2019
Knockout Stage Quarterfinals:
Thu. 24 January Kick-off 22:00 (Japan Time)
vs Vietnam National Team
Broadcasting: Televised Live at TV Asahi Group
BS Broadcasting: Televised Live at NHKBS1
- National Teams 2019/01/21 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)
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- National Teams 2019/01/19 【AFC Asian Cup Knockout Stage Overview】The campaign to reclaim title starts by facing Saudi Arabia
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