【Match Report】U-17 Japan National Team on tour in Algeria defeat Mali 3-1 in their first match
24 March 2023
The U-17 Japan National Team, who are touring Algeria ahead of the AFC U-17 Asian Cup in June, are participating in an international friendly tournament hosted by the Algerian Football Federation. The tournament, which Algeria, Mali and Comoros, and Japan will take part in, will be held in preparation for the upcoming U-17 Africa Cup of Nations for the three African countries, while providing a valuable opportunity for Japan to play African sides, and will be the last international match before the final round of Asian qualifiers in June.
After meeting at Prince Takamado Memorial JFA YUME Field and playing a training match against Ryutsu Keizai University on 18 March, the team arrived in the capital Algiers at noon on 19 March, after about 24 hours of travel. In an environment different from that in Japan, with heavy traffic and a unique atmosphere at the training venue, the team held training sessions on 20 and 21 March before playing a match against the U-17 Mali National Team on 22 March.
The U-17 Mali National Team is known as a global powerhouse in this age group, having finished second in the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015™ and fourth in the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017™.
Before the match, Head Coach MORIYAMA Yoshiro spoke about the importance of the first match in a tournament and the fact that it was the first time for the U-17 Japan National Team players to play an African side, saying, “The way our opponents play will be different from how we are used to, but the same could be said of us. The key to the game will be which of us adapts to the opponents' play style first. We won't back down and will fight with all of our hearts.” True to their coach's predictions, Japan initially had trouble controlling the ball against the unorthodox timing and physicality of the African players. Mali, on the other hand, appeared to be having trouble adapting to the Japanese players' quick movements as the game remained in a stalemate until the 20th minute of the first half.
Japan gradually took over the pace of the match, and in the 23rd minute, they intercepted the ball deep in the opposing end to initiate a short counterattack, but this attempt was stopped by the Malian goalkeeper. Another close opportunity was created by Japan moments later, but this time, the shot was denied by the crossbar.
Although it was Japan who started to gain momentum in the match, it was Mali who scored the opening goal, as they converted a penalty kick won after one of their players was brought down inside the box by the Japanese goalkeeper.
However, in the 37th minute, the Japan broke down the left flank and fired a shot through the middle, which was once blocked by the opposing goalkeeper, but MICHIWAKI Yutaka (Roasso Kumamoto) was there to collect the deflection and score the equaliser.
TAKAOKA Rento (Nissho Gakuen High School) missed a one-on-one opportunity with the goalkeeper at the start of the second half, but he was given another opportunity in the 68th minute when he broke into the open space and this time converted the one-on-one to give Japan the lead. The game went back and forth, with Mali having a few crucial chances, but goalkeeper GOTO Wataru (FC Tokyo U-18) made some big saves to keep Mali from scoring. In the 76th minute, TSUCHIYA Kaito (Kawasaki Frontale U-18) made an over-lapping run down the right flank, before firing a powerful shot that induced an own goal to double the Japanese lead.
Japan did not allow Mali to create any chances as they were losing concentration towards the end, and managed to win the first match of the tournament with a final score of 3-1.
The U-17 Japan National Team will now face the host, the U-17 Algeria National Team on Saturday 25 March.
DF #3 HONDA Kotaro (Shonan Bellmare U-18)
With this being our first match of the tournament, we knew this was a match we couldn’t afford to lose. We conceded the first goal, but we didn't collapse and were able to turn the game around and win 3-1, which gave us a lot of confidence. However, there were many situations, including the time we gave up the goal, where we gave up chances to our opponents too easily. Personally, I felt that we had to manage the risks more thoroughly and not allow our opponents to counter. In the next match, we will take the initiative both offensively and defensively, and try to overwhelm our opponents from kick-off.
DF #18 KOSUGI Keita (Shonan Bellmare U-18)
I am delighted to be part of this tour to Algeria, and I am very grateful to all those who are supporting us. We conceded the opening goal against Mali yesterday, but we fought as a team without falling apart, and I think it was great that we were able to win. It was a game we had to win in order to win the U-17 World Cup, and I hope we can learn the importance of winning such games. As an individual, I wasn’t satisfied with the way I played, especially in offence, but I am just glad that the team won. This is one of the few tours we have left ahead of the Asian qualifiers and the World Cup, so I hope to make the most of these opportunities to make the final roster.
FW #9 NAWATA Gaku (Kamimura Gakuen High School)
What I felt in this match against Mali was the athleticism, speed, and strength of the African players. We wanted to possess the ball longer in the first half, but there were times when our opponents took control over the ball possession. However, I think it was crucial that we managed to equalise within the first half. As an individual, this match reminded me of the need to improve the quality of my shots, endurance, and ability to win the ball. I am grateful to be able to participate in this Algeria tour as a representative of this age group, and we will do our best in the remaining matches, both as individuals and as a team, in search of results.
FW #17 MICHIWAKI Yutaka (Roasso Kumamoto)
This was the first match of our Algeria tour, and we are very happy to have finished this first match with a win. Despite conceding the opening goal, the whole team managed to maintain our composure and score the equaliser. We also showed great persistency to fight until the end, which allowed us to win this match. I think this was a victory earned through a great team effort. We hope to keep this momentum going in our upcoming matches and try to make the most of this tour ahead of the Asian qualifiers.
International Friendly Match
Wed. 22 March, 22:00 local time (Thu. 23 March, 6:00 Japan time)
vs U-17 Mali National Team
Venue: Stade Tchaker (Algeria)
Sat. 25 March, 22:00 local time (Sun. 26 March, 6:00 Japan time)
vs U-17 Algeria National Team
Venue: Stade 5 Juillet (Algeria)
Tue. 28 March, 22:00 local time (Wed. 29 March, 6:00 Japan time)
vs U-17 Comoros National Team
Venue: Stade Tchaker (Algeria)
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