【Match Report】U-22 Japan National Team defeated Hong Kong 4-0 to qualify for the AFC U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022™
29 October 2021
The AFC U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022™ Qualifiers was held on Thursday 28 October at J-Village Stadium, where the U-22 Japan National Team played against the U-22 Hong Kong National Team.
Coach TOGASHI Koichi, who mentioned, “All 23 players are good enough to start,” rotated the entire starting line-up since their first match, as OBATA Yuma (Vegalta Sendai) started in goal, with HANDA Riku (Montedio Yamagata), BABA Seiya (Tokyo Verdy), SAKO Maaya (Fujieda MYFC), and HATA Taiga (Shonan Bellmare) forming the defence line. FUJITA Joel Chima (Tokushima Vortis), MATSUOKA Daiki (Shimizu S-Pulse), and GOKE Yuta (Vissel Kobe) were named as the central midfielders, with NAKAMURA Jiro (Gamba Osaka Youth) and SUZUKI Yuito (Shimizu S-Pulse) positioned in the flanks, while FUJIO Shota (Mito HollyHock) played as the lone striker.
As Goke, who wore the captain’s band for this match, mentioned, “We were grateful to be given the opportunity to play an international match under the ongoing pandemic, so we wanted to express our gratitude on the pitch,” Japan entered the match with strong determination. Although they were in position to top the group with a draw, the Japanese players were committed to finish the qualifier with a win.
Hong Kong, on the other hand, “changed their system from their match against Cambodia to five at the back” (coach Togashi) and played a defensive line-up, which led to Japan dominating the ball possession throughout the match. With their opponent dropping deep, Japan penetrated the flanks to create opportunities. The opening goal came in the 14th minute, when Hata, who later mentioned, “There were gaps in their defence on the right side, so I tried to exploit them before they could correct them,” broke loose in the left flank before sending a cross that was converted by Fujio.
With momentum on their side, Japan scored their second goal in the 49th minute, as Fujio scored his second goal of the match, this time converting the cross sent by Sako. Goke and HOSOYA Mao (Kashiwa Reysol) followed in the 63rd and 85th minute respectively to make it 4-0. Coach Togashi made a change in the closing minutes to bring in goalkeeper SUGIMOTO Mitsuki (Rissho University), which meant that all 23 players on the squad had played within the two matches.
Although there were times when the team struggled against the tight defence of their opponents, they managed to break through to score four goals, including the brace of Fujio, who mentioned, “I was fully determined to leave a result.”
After the match, coach Togashi pointed out that “the players who came on as substitutes strengthened the team in a different way” and that “we were able to fight with all 23 players” as major take-aways from these matches and summed up the victory as “a result won by all the people involved in player development of Japanese football.”
This was the first international match for this generation of players in about two years, but they were able to win two matches in a row with players from various J.League clubs, high schools, and university football teams. As a result, they have earned their ticket to the AFC U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022™, which will take place in June of next year.
Coach and Players' Comments
TOGASHI Koichi, Coach
From the training camp, we had simulated what we would do if the opponent came out playing five in the back, so we were prepared for it. However, it was a tough match, especially in the first half. The players gave it a lot of thought, and we were able to challenge new tactics in this tournament.
DF #3 HATA Taiga (Shonan Bellmare)
Before the assist, I had a few opportunities to cross the ball, but they were blocked by the defenders, so I thought I’d try lifting the ball in the air. Fujio timed his run perfectly to convert my cross. In this tournament, the fullbacks were given a new role, so it was very challenging, but I think we gradually managed to handle it.
MF #10 GOKE Yuta (Vissel Kobe)
In the first half, we looked a bit stiff, so one of the key points was how to break down the opposing defence, who were dropping deep. Although we were able to send in some crosses, we still need to work on how to enter the box and apply more numbers upfront. I personally wanted to score goals, and I was feeling a little impatient because we were only up by a goal in the first half. However, after Fujio scored the second goal in the early minutes of the second half, we managed to take control of the match, and I was also able to score a goal.
FW #18 FUJIO Shota (Mito HollyHock)
I was used as a substitute in our match against Cambodia, but I was able to earn results in the second match, and I am glad that I was able to score the most goals in this team. The first and second goals were pretty similar, but when I made my run, Hata and Sako delivered a great cross, so I was glad to convert them. It is difficult to break down the middle when your opponent is dropping that deep, so we entered the match with the intention to penetrate the flanks and deliver crosses to the middle.
AFC U23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022™ Qualifiers
Dates: Sat. 23 - Sun. 31 October 2021
Venue: J-Village Stadium (Fukushima)
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