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SAMURAI BLUE goes over team tactics in training session behind closed doors – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

08 January 2019

SAMURAI BLUE goes over team tactics in training session behind closed doors – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

On Monday 7 January, with two days left ahead of their first match against Turkmenistan at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) held a training session behind close doors at Abu Dhabi.

The session was open to the media for the first 15 minutes, where the players were seen taking a light jog and going through core trainings to warm up their bodies. The team was then divided into two groups to conduct a ball-possession drill, where the field players such as OSAKO Yuya (Werder Bremen), YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC), DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen) were seen passing the ball around in a small grid. Meanwhile the three goalkeepers were seen going through catching drills from close range. The session was then closed to the media as the team went through tactical trainings to go over the team strategy.

With just two days remaining ahead of the first match, the session was only their second time conducted with all 23 players on the pitch. Despite the short preparation time, SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.) pointed out, “(Since Coach MORIYASU Hajime took over the team) We have been working on the team tactics since September. We are seeing better quality and the tactics are getting nurtured into the players’ minds.” He continued by sharing his aspiration ahead of the match, “I am hoping to initiate the attacks from my position and create opportunities to finish the play in a good way.”

Veteran defender NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.) shared his take ahead of the tournament, “I am sensing a good amount of nervousness from the team. I am thrilled for this opportunity.” /p>

Japan will be seeking for their fifth Asian Cup title, second in three appearances. Their campaign will kick-off with the match against Turkmenistan on Wednesday 9. While Japan is ranked 50th in the FIFA rankings, Turkmenistan is currently ranked 127th, and the two sides has never faced each other in the past. For Turkmenistan, this will be there second Asian Cup appearance, first since the 2004 tournament. They have won through the qualification round with a record of three wins, a draw, and two loses, where they faced Bahrain, Chinese Taipei, Singapore. The team has also played a friendly match against Afghanistan on 25 December where they won 2-0.

For this tournament, Turkmenistan has gathered a squad that consists three players who plays abroad, including midfielder Ruslan MINGAZOW who play in the Czech Republic. The rest of the squad plays for clubs belonging to the domestic league, such as FC Altyn Asyr and FC Ahal who are leading the league.

With many of the opposing players belonging to the same team, Shibasaki kept alerted, “The opponents share a great understanding among each other. They are capable of initiating quick counter attacks.” He continued by stating, “We must give our best on what’s in front of us. If we can give our best performance within the given circumstance, we can win against anyone.”

It is expected that the opponent will play defensively against Japan, and midfielder MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg) shared his take on the match, “I must find ways to receive the ball close to the opposing goal. It will be important to keep the intention to take shots, even if it’s a low percentage shot.”

The Asian Cup opened its action on Saturday 5, where Jordan caused an upset by defeating the defending champions Australia in the first match. Ahead of the competition, Nagatomo pointed out the difficulties when playing in Asia, “It is rare to see opponents changing their strategy when facing Japan, but in the Asian Cup, the opponents will do whatever it takes to win against Japan.” On the other hand, Coach Moriyasu showed his confidence by mentioning the cohesion between the veterans and young players are going smoothly and that, “We are just waiting for the result now.”

Japan will play their first two group matches against Turkmenistan and Oman in Abu Dhabi, and face Uzbekistan in Al Ain on Thursday 17. The top two teams from each group and the top four third-place finishers will advance to the knockout stage.

The third match-day saw Korea Republic win over the Philippines 1-0, Iran thrashing Yemen 5-0, and China PR grabbing a 2-1 victory over Kyrgyz Republic in a come-from-behind fashion.

Players' Comments

DF #3 MUROYA Sei (F.C. Tokyo)
Our preparation is going smoothly. It helped a lot that we were given the opportunity to play a training match on the other day. I think Turkmenistan has a similar style with Kyrgyz Republic, but we must play very carefully. If we assume they are a lower ranked team, they can catch us off-guards and beat us. So, we must be fully prepared in all aspects. The first match of the tournament is always difficult so we will give our best to enter the tournament right.

DF #5 NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.)
We have a similar atmosphere from the World Cup, where the team is sharing a good amount of nervousness. The training sessions are going nice and crisp. In terms of offence, we were able to heighten the team’s cohesiveness just through today’s session. Prior to the match, we must all build an image of who’s around each other. Although we have analysed our opponents, we must focus on our own tasks and build our motivation as a team.

MF #9 MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg)
We have been able to train very well both as a team and as an individual. If I can manage to receive the ball in the central area, that can lead to chances created for the team. We’ve all heard about Australia losing their first match, so we must learn from that. Anything can happen in football, especially in the first match of the tournament. We will keep that in mind and prepare ahead of the first match.

MF #14 ITO Junya (Kashiwa Reysol)
We must be able to combine well with each other and create spaces at the individual level to break through the opponents playing deep in their own territory. We must stay eager to take shots, but we must not be too selfish and focus on assisting each other depending on the situation. We will all stay vocal and focus on playing our own football, regardless of who we face. There may be certain things that might not go well in the first match of the tournament, but we will stay composed and play our usual style of football.

FW #11 KITAGAWA Koya (Shimizu S-Pulse)
We are fully prepared to give our very best at the match on the 9th. It is impossible to fight through every match with the same players, so it is important that each and every player are prepared to give their very best at any given situation. Every player on this roster are expected to earn results. I hope to showcase my strengths and play up to the full potential at the match.


SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) Squad, Schedule


Tournament Dates: Sat. 5 January - Fri. 1 February 2019

Group Stage:
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

Tournament Information

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