SAMURAI BLUE plays training match against local club team – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)
06 January 2019
With four days left until their first AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 match against Turkmenistan, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) conducted a training match against the local club team Al Wahda FC on Saturday 5 January.
The session was open to the media for the first 15 minutes as DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen) and MAKINO Tomoaki (Urawa Red Diamonds) were seen repeatedly making short sprints, while the players showed continues movements in the 5 vs 5 warmup drill.
The training match was held behind closed doors where the team played in a match with 35-minute halves. Midfielder MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg) scored a brace while midfielder HARAGUCHI Genki (Hannover 96) captured the goal to give the Japanese side a 3-0 victory.
Precautionary measures were taken to rest up the two players who played in a recent match for their club side, as YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC) and MUTO Yoshinori (Newcastle United) remained at the hotel, while ENDO Wataru (Sint-Truidense V.V.) also was not present on the field after making a late arrival to UAE with a fever. Despite making an appearance on the training field, OSAKO Yuya (Werder Bremen) worked on a separate menu from the team to condition himself.
It was decided that midfielders NAKAJIMA Shoya (Portimonense S.C.) and MORITA Hidemasa (Kawasaki Frontale) were withdrawn from the team due to injury. Nakajima has sustained an injury in his lower right leg in the recent club match, while Morita injured his right hamstring.
With the two players departing the team, midfielder INUI Takashi (Real Betis) and defender SHIOTANI Tsukasa (Al Ain FC) were newly called up to the team. While it was the first call up for Inui since the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Shiotani returned to the national team since October 2015. The two added players are scheduled to join the team on Sunday 6 January.
Despite being limited with his player selection, Coach MORIYASU Hajime spoke after the training match, “We were given the opportunity to test ourselves when the unexpected has happened. This match served as a great preparation session ahead of the Asian Cup.”
Veteran defender NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.) also mentioned of the training match, “As long as we are representing the country, we must be fully prepared to play in any given position. This team has the talent to cover each other even in difficult times.”
After scoring two goals in the training match, Minamino shared that the team has tried out many patterns in their combinations and that, “We created many opportunities, so I am glad I was able to help the team by scoring goals.”
The opening match of the Asian Cup was held on this day in Abu Dhabi, where UAE, led by former Japan National Team Coach Alberto ZACCHERONI, drew against Bahrain 1-1.
Japan, who are in Group F, will play their first match against Turkmenistan on Wednesday 9 January, followed by their second match against Oman on Sunday 13, then their final group stage match against Uzbekistan on Thursday 17.
With just three days left ahead of their first match, Coach Moriyasu mentioned, “We must heighten our conditions while making sure we are on the same page in terms of the offensive and defensive concepts.”
The qualification slots for the Asian Cup has increased from 16 to 24 this year, where the teams are divided into six groups. Top two teams from each group will automatically advance, while the top four teams among the third-place finishers of each group will join the knockout stage. The final round will consist with the round of 16, quarterfinals, semi-finals, and the final will be held on Friday 1 February at Abu Dhabi.
Coach and Players' Comments
MORIYASU Hajime, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
We were able to display what we have been striving for on the pitch, so this was a great preparation session ahead of the Asian Cup. During the match, our players managed to deepen their understandings of the team tactics in both offence and defence, and they showed great improvements in the quality of plays. There were many players who had to play out of their natural positions. It is ideal if we can go on without seeing any issues during the course of the tournament, but we must always be prepared to adjust to the unexpected. With that being said, all players must be prepared to play multiple positions and make that a norm. In that sense, this match gave us a great experience as a team. The team will be joined by Inui, who has played with the team in the recent World Cup, and Shiotani, who I have seen him play back in the Hiroshima days. I feel like they are a great fit for the team. I am pretty sure they were eager to join the national team, so I hope they can add extra value to this team.
DF #5 NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.)
I think we were able to take out both positive and negative points from this match. It was evident that we had to communicate more in offence to heighten the quality of combinations and the overall plays. We all know that the Asian Cup is not a walk in the park. I hope that the younger players are here to showcase their full potential and utilise this opportunity to make a step forward in their career. This tournament is a great opportunity for them, as it can give them a huge leap to improve as a football player. There are still so many uncertain variables, but I want the younger players to come out with a strong intention and eagerness.
DF #16 TOMIYASU Takehiro (Sint-Truidense V.V.)
With the hot weather and fatigue from the long travel, the team is far from being in our top condition, but it was great that we managed to win the match 3-0. However, we made many mistakes and showcased many flaws in our combinations. A simple mistake can lead to a goal conceded, so we must keep on communicating with each other from our training sessions. We saw players being withdrawn due to injuries, but those are part of this game, and we must be able to maintain our cohesiveness as a team regardless of the situation.
MF #8 HARAGUCHI Genki (Hannover 96)
Although there were some aspects we managed to do well, overall, we still have many areas to fix. We must heighten the quality in our offensive plays, both as a team and as an individual. We saw that our defence were able to maintain a certain level despite the changes, but they still need to think of ways to deliver the ball upfront while the opponents are dropping deep in their territory. This match gave us a great opportunity to get ourselves prepared ahead of the tournament.
Interview of MAKINO Tomoaki (Urawa Red Diamonds)
Interview of TOMIYASU Takehiro (Sint-Truidense V.V./Belgium)
Interview of DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen/Netherlands)
AFC ASIAN CUP UAE 2019
Tournament Dates: Sat. 5 January - Fri. 1 February 2019
Wed. 9 January Kick-off 20:00 (Japan Time)
vs Turkmenistan National Team
Sun. 13 January Kick-off 22:30 (Japan Time)
vs Oman National Team
Thu. 17 January Kick-off 22:30 (Japan Time)
vs Uzbekistan National Team
Broadcasting: Televised Live at TV Asahi Group
BS Broadcasting: Televised Live at NHKBS1
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