SAMURAI BLUE defeats Tajikistan to mark 3 consecutive victories - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar Asian Qualification Round 2
16 October 2019
On Tuesday 15 October, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) faced the Tajikistan National Team at Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in the second round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar Asian qualifiers.
In their third match at Group F, Japan entered with the same 4-2-3-1 formation displayed against Mongolia on Thursday 10, but made four changes to the line-up, as KAMADA Daichi (Eintracht Frankfurt) was named as the lone striker upfront, while DOAN Ritsu (PSV Eindhoven) and HASHIMOTO Kento (F.C. Tokyo) were named in the midfield. With TOMIYASU Takehiro (Bologna FC 1909) picking up an injury during the match against Mongolia, UEDA Naomichi (Cercle Brugge K.S.V.) took his spot in the central half position.
The highly anticipated match between two teams with two wins attracted thousands of fans that overcrowded the stadium. At the beginning of the match, the complete away atmosphere and the artificial turf seemingly troubled the Japanese squad, as they struggled to find their rhythm. However, Japan started to pick up their pace as the match progressed, as YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC) connected with a corner kick delivered by NAKAJIMA Shoya (FC Porto) to create a close opportunity in the 13th minute.
Japan continued to showcase their dominance in ball possession but fell short from creating an opportunity that would break through the solid Tajikistani defence. Conversely, Tajikistan came close to scoring the opener in the 24th minute, when Ehsoni PANSHANBE broke into the penalty area to take a shot, but the Japanese goalkeeper, GONDA Shuichi (Portimonense S.C.), made a fine save to deny this opportunity.
The big save made by their goalkeeper gave momentum to the Japanese offence, as Doan fired a shot in the 27th minute, followed by a header struck by Yoshida in the 31st minute, but neither shot was able to capture the target. In efforts to break the deadlock, Nakajima broke through the left flank in the 45th minute, sending a cross that found MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg) unmarked inside the box, but the header struck by Minamino went straight to the goalkeeper.
After being kept scoreless in the first half, Japan entered the second half with the same line-up and showed great aggression to start the half. The long awaited moment came in the 53rd minute, when Kamada carried the ball upfront and sent the ball towards the left flank, allowing Nakajima to deliver a cross toward the goal. It was Minamino who connected with this delivery, as the Japanese midfielder captured the net with a header, marking a goal in each of the three matches played at the qualifiers.
Just three minutes after scoring the opening goal, Minamino capitalised on another opportunity, as he connected with the delivery sent by SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille) to double the lead for Japan.
In efforts to level the match, Tajikistan continued to threaten the Japanese goal through their counterattacks, but Gonda showed great composure to keep the clean sheet intact. In the 64th minute, coach MORIYASU Hajime used his first substitute to bring in ASANO Takuma (FK Partizan Belgrade) to replace Nakajima, followed by NAGAI Kensuke (F.C. Tokyo) to replace Kamada in the 80th minute. Japan’s third goal came soon after this second substitution, as Asano converted a cross delivered by Sakai in the 82nd minute.
With a commanding lead, Japan continued to create chances upfront, as Nagai made numbers of runs to penetrate the open space. In the 87th minute, coach Moriyasu introduced KUBO Takefusa (RCD Mallorca) to the game, as he replaced Minamino to take over the offensive midfield role. In the closing moments of the match, Kubo delivered a well-timed pass to allow Nagai to take a shot, but his attempt went off the crossbar. The match came to an end with a final score of 3-0, as Japan kept their group lead with the only undefeated record in Group F.
Coach and Players' Comments
MORIYASU Hajime, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
In a match played away from home, we knew that we were up against a tough challenge, and our players showcased their strong determination to put up a strong fight. I believe that our players’ commitment towards the match has led us to this victory. Our players gave their utmost efforts to encourage those who were affected by the typhoon and to deliver positive news to all of our supporters.
DF #22 YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC)
Although our performance in the first half was not so great, we still managed to add three points to our tally. From the beginning of the match, we felt the unique difficulties when playing in central Asia, but we did well to keep our composure through the tough stretches. Knowing that our opponent will not be able to cope with our intensity, we started to utilise the space in the flanks in the second half and it turned out to be effective to create chances for us.
MF #9 MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg)
With Tajikistan also entering the match with two wins at the group stage, we knew this was going to be a tough match for us. The first half turned out the way we expected, as our opponent came out playing with great intensity. The first goal was setup by a great cross, and it gave us a much needed boost for the team. I was given numbers of opportunities from the first half, so I was glad that I was able to contribute for the team by scoring that goal. I was in a difficult posture when I scored the second goal, and I am glad I was able to make contact with the ball. We are very thankful for all the supporters who have made their ways to this match. We have more tough matches scheduled ahead of us, so we must continue to give our best efforts to showcase a good performance and deliver positive results to our supporters.
FW #15 ASANO Takuma (FK Partizan Belgrade)
It’s been a while since I have played as a member of the national team and I am just happy that I was able to contribute to the team victory by scoring a goal. I have joined a new team at a new location, but regardless of where I am, my job remains the same and I will always strive to make it into the Japan National Team. That is why this goal means the world to me. However, there were plenty of room for improvements as well, so I must continue to work hard to improve myself as a player. We will be facing tougher competitions as we move along. In order to fight through the qualifiers, we need the support of our fans and we must fight together as a nation. I hope to play as many matches as possible with this team.
2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar and AFC Asian Cup China PR 2023 Preliminary Joint Qualification - Round 2
Tajikistan National Team vs SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
Match Date: Tue. 15 October 2019, 17:15 (21:15 Japan time)
Match Venue: Republican Central Stadium, Tajikistan
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