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SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) draws with Senegal, gets one step closer to the Round of 16 in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

25 June 2018

SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) draws with Senegal, gets one step closer to the Round of 16 in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

On Sunday 24 June, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) faced the Senegal National Team in their second group stage match in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia at Ekaterinburg Arena. Despite conceding the lead twice, the team drew 2-2 with the two equalisers scored by INUI Takashi (Real Betis) and the second half substitute, HONDA Keisuke (CF Pachuca).

The draw meant that Japan remained tied in first place of Group H along with Senegal, sharing the same points and goal differentials. Colombia bested Poland 3-0 on this day, moving them into contention with three points, while Poland has been eliminated after losing two matches in a row.

With this result, Japan will now advance to the knockout stage with a tie or better in their third group stage match against Poland on the 28th at Volgograd. If Japan can advance through, it will be their first appearance in the round of 16 since the 2010 World Cup.

After both teams has won their first match, it meant that the winner of this second match would take a huge advantage in making through to the knockout stage. Japan entered the match with the same line-ups as they faced Colombia, while Senegal also kept the same players from the previous match, except for one player change.

The early minutes saw Japan in the defensive end, as Senegal attacked aggressively, earning consecutive corner kicks.

In the 11th minute, HARAGUCHI Genki’s (Fortuna Dusseldorf) attempt to clear a cross from the right side was collected by Senegal’s Youssouf SABALY, who fired a shot at goal. The shot was parried by the Japanese goalkeeper KAWASHIMA Eiji (Football Club de Metz) but the loose ball was converted by Sadio MANE who quickly responded in front of the goal, giving Senegal the early lead.

Japan displayed their willingness to engage into a close battle, however, in the 22nd minute, Senegal initiated a counter attack following a Japanese corner kick which led to shot taken by Ismaila SARR, but the shot was saved by Kawashima.

With their one goal lead, Senegal displayed a well organised defence while constructing a block in the central area. Japan on the other hand, kept their cool as they moved the ball around to anticipate for their opportunity.

The equaliser came on the 34th minute, when SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.) delivered a long ball into the space behind the Senegalese defence line, where NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.) made a run to receive the ball. With two defenders responding to his run, the ball was then transferred to Inui, who struck a shot with his right foot, finding the net in the far side corner to level the match.

Senegal responded with quick vertical attacks, as Mane threatened the goal in the 39th minute, but his attempt was saved once again by Kawashima, sending the match into halftime with a score of 1-1.

Gaining momentum from the equaliser, the second half saw Japan getting active in offence. In the 50th minute, OSAKO Yuya (Werder Bremen) responded to Haraguchi’s header, but his effort was saved by the opposing goalkeeper.

In the 61st minute, Shibasaki delivered a cross into the centre, but Osako was unable to time himself to the ball. Japan found their rhythm in offence as Osako delivered the ball to Inui in the 65th minute, who then penetrated the left side of the box before striking the cross bar with his shot.

However, it was the Senegal side who scored the next goal, as they attacked the left flank in the 71st minute. Sabaly possessed the ball in the box before flicking a heel pass to Mbaye NIANG who delivered a cross to allow Moussa WAGUE to score the go-ahead goal.

Just a minute later, Japan brought in Honda for KAGAWA Shinji (Borussia Dortmund), while OKAZAKI Shinji (Leicester City Football Club) entered the match for Haraguchi in the 74th minute. The match saw a tide-change soon after these substitutions.

In the 78th minute, Osako sent a cross into the middle, which was once deflected off the goalkeeper, but Inui was there to collect the loose ball and redirected the ball in front of the goal, where Honda was there to capitalise with his left foot. The equaliser was Honda’s fourth overall World Cup goal, as he has recorded a goal in each of the past three World Cups since 2010.

With the scores tied once again, Senegal brought in Cheikh NDOYE and Mame DIOUF, while Japan sent out USAMI Takashi (Fortuna Dusseldorf) in efforts to score the winning goal.

Both teams battled it out until the last moment, but the match ended with a final score of 2-2, as the two teams shared one-point apiece.

Coaches' and Players' Comments

NISHINO Akira, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
Just as we anticipated, the match turned into a very tough battle, and I think the result reflects that. We showed our persistence and managed to level the match twice against a very strong opponent. Although we conceded the opening goal, the players kept their composure and executed our game plan to score the equaliser. The fact that we were able to create our time after conceding the goal, the players were able to find their rhythm, tempo, and play style. They seemed very confident during half time. We created many chances from our ball movements, so we were really looking to win the match. The three substitutes we employed were all an offensive move, and I believe that was the most optimal way to utilise our substitutes. We had the option to either bring in a defensive player or Usami, but I decided to go for the win. The one point we earned was a result of us going for the win, so I think we should be proud of it. Senegal was a very tough opponent to face, and we will just have to take the result and our performance positively ahead of our next match.

FP #4 HONDA Keisuke (CF Pachuca)
It was good that we managed to level twice, but the fact we have conceded goals makes us nervous. This World Cup has given me a positive perspective regarding a substitutional role, which is something new to my soccer career. I am preparing myself with the urgency that I will be given only one shot.

FP #14 INUI Takashi (Real Betis)
(Regarding the goal scene) Nagatomo made a great run behind the defenders. The instant where the ball came, I though of leaving the ball for the players behind me, but I managed to face the goal and saw my favourite angle, so I just took the shot. I am glad to score my first goal in the World Cups, but I had another chance to score a goal, so I am not completely satisfied.

FP #17 HASEBE Makoto (Eintracht Frankfurt) Although it was a match we could have won, but the fact we managed to come from behind twice is not a bad result neither. We kept our composure and knew what we had to do even after we conceded the opening goal. We share a mutual feeling that we are fighting as one, regardless of who is on the pitch.

Aliou CISSE, Coach (Senegal National Team)
The result is obviously disappointing. We couldn’t put up our best performance, and I have to say we played better in the match against Poland. I am very disappointed that we conceded two goals. Just as we expected, Japan displayed a high-level techniques and quality passes. We pressured aggressively in the early minutes of the match and induced an error to score the opening goal but conceded soon after to let go of our lead. It was the same story in the second half. Japan proved to be very dangerous if we allowed them just five centi-meters of space. The group stage is not over yet, so we will prepare ourselves ahead of our match against Colombia.

Schedule

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Tue. 19 June 2-1 1st Match vs Colombia (Mordovia Arena)
Wed. 20 June PM Training
Thu. 21 June PM Training
Fri. 22 June AM Training
Sat. 23 June PM Official Conference・Official Training
Sun. 24 June 2-2 2nd Match vs Senegal (Ekaterinburg Arena)
Mon. 25 June PM Training
Tue. 26 June AM Training
Wed. 27 June PM Official Conference・Official Training
Thu. 28 June 17:00 3rd Match vs Poland (Volgograd Arena)

*Local Time
*The schedule is subject to change due to the team condition, the weather, etc.

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Tournament Dates: 14 June - 15 July 2018

Group stage
1st Match Tue. 19 June Kickoff at 15:00 vs Colombia National Team (Mordovia Arena)
(21:00 Japan time)
2nd Match Sun. 24 June Kickoff at 20:00 vs Senegal National Team (Ekaterinburg Arena)
(Mon. 25 June, 0:00 Japan time)
3rd Match Thu. 28 June Kickoff at 17:00 vs Poland National Team (Volgograd Arena)
(23:00 Japan time)

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