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SAMURAI BLUE comes from behind to win over Turkmenistan – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

10 January 2019

SAMURAI BLUE comes from behind to win over Turkmenistan – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

On Wednesday 9 January, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) played their first group stage match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 against Turkmenistan National Team at Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi. Despite conceding the opening goal in the first half, Japan came from behind with OSAKO Yuya’s (Werder Bremen) brace and DOAN Ritsu’s (FC Groningen) goal in the second half to start off the tournament with a 3-2 victory.

Coach MORIYASU Hajime of the SAMURAI BLUE who has stated prior to the match, “We want to stay eager to win each and every match to finish as the group leader,” started an experienced line-up which consisted many members from last summer’s FIFA World Cup, along with the younger players who has shown exceptional performances since joining the team last September.

The defence line was formed by experienced players, as SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille), YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC), MAKINO Tomoaki (Urawa Red Diamonds), and NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.) featured the line-up. While SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.) and TOMIYASU Takehiro (Sint-Truidense V.V.) played the defensive midfielder role, HARAGUCHI Genki (Hannover 96) and Doan were positioned in the flanks. MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg) was placed beneath the lone striker Osako.

The match kicked off under scorching heat where the temperature rose over 30 degrees Celsius. With the climate being rather cool in the past few days, it was evident that the players were struggling to adjust to this hot weather.

Japan created their first opportunity in the 12th minute when Doan responded to the cross delivered by Shibasaki, but his header was blocked by the opposing goalkeeper. In the early minutes of the match, Japan repeatedly lost the ball possession to allow Turkmenistan to initiate counter attacks.

The opening goal came from one of the counter attacks initiated by the Turkmenistan side. In the 27th minute, Ruslan MINGAZOW intercepted a pass in the midfield to allow Arslanmyrat AMANOW to break through the Japanese territory. The long-range shot taken by the Turkmen midfielder sailed over the head of the Japanese goalkeeper GONDA Shuichi (Sagan Tosu) to put Japan in a 0-1 hole.

Trailing by a goal, Japan made the efforts to level the match, as Osako took a shot in the 30th minute, followed by an attempt made by Tomiyasu, but neither found the back of the net. Conversely, Japan gave up a one-on-one situation to Turkmenistan in the 37th minute, but Gonda made a superb save to keep the score intact.

The second half saw the Japanese side penetrating the left side to rejuvenate their attacks. The team collected the ball to Haraguchi who made continuous runs in the flank. Nagatomo also made numbers of overlapping runs to create opportunities as well.

The long-awaited moment came for Japan in the 56th minute, when Haraguchi penetrated the left side of the box before passing the ball to Osako, who calmly controlled the ball and slotted the ball into the corner of the goal. Four minutes later, Haraguchi made another dribbling effort in the left flank before sending the ball to Nagatomo, who delivered a lobbing cross to Osako, allowing the striker to tap the ball across the goal line with ease.

In the 71st minute, Minamino picked out Doan in the box, who made an excellent turn before striking the ball with his left foot to give Japan a 3-1 lead.

It was evident that the Turkmen players were running out of gas, but they continued to send in long balls to threaten the Japanese goal.

Japan was caught off-guards when Turkmenistan launched a counter attack in the 79th minute where Altymyrat ANNADURDYYEW chased a long ball into the box. The Turkmen forward, who came in as a late substitute, induced a foul from Gonda to earn a penalty kick. Midfielder Ahmet ATAYEW converted the spot kick to close down the margin to just one goal, but Japan managed to maintain their lead for the remaining minutes to take down their first group stage match with a final score of 3-2.

In the other match of Group F, Uzbekistan won over Oman 2-1, and as a result, Japan is now ranked at the top of the league with the advantage in goal differential against Uzbekistan.

Japan will now face Oman at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday 13, a team led by former coach of the J. League, Coach Pim VERBEEK. A win over Oman will clinch a spot into the next round before their third group stage match against Uzbekistan on Thursday 17.

Coaches and Players' Comments

MORIYASU Hajime, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
We all knew that the first match of a tournament is never easy, but it turned out to be a really tough match for us. The only good thing about today’s match was the fact that we won the match. I am glad that we were able to bring this victory to those who has supported us here in UAE and back in Japan, but we are not satisfied with our performance. This will be our task ahead of our next match. During halftime, we went over the fundamental aspects, such as transition, the duel to win the ball, and decision making. By conceding the opening goal against a team who are dropping back deep in their territory, it has put us in a very difficult situation, but I told my players to anticipate making runs behind the opposing defence line. Although we were expecting a match under hot weather, we could have done a better job in terms of conditioning ourselves. With players joining the team from Japan and from abroad, we have been dealing with our players at the individual level but didn’t have enough time to take care of the overall condition of the team. At the end of the day, I will take the positive from this match, as the players has done a great job under tough circumstance to earn the victory. We will continue to heighten our overall condition ahead of our next match.

DF #16 TOMIYASU Takehiro (Sint-Truidense V.V.)
It was a lot hotter than we expected. My body felt heavy in the first half and it took longer to recover from each sprint. I am sure it will be better in our next match, so we will do our best to recover our conditions and prepare ourselves ahead of the next match.

DF #22 YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC)
This result makes us question ourselves if we entered the match with the right intention and commitment. We entered the match so poorly and made it even worse by conceding the opening goal. We communicated during halftime to make the adjustments and Osako’s performance was excellent in the second half. Despite the overall performance, the most important thing is that we earned the full three points, so we should be happy about that.

MF #8 HARAGUCHI Genki (Hannover 96)
Many factors had an effect on this match, as we were nervous, the weather was hot, and the opponents played very defensively. However, perhaps the biggest issue was that we insisted on playing a style we wanted to play. There were many scenes where we insisted on playing the combinations at the centre, leaving out the width of the field. We managed to make the adjustments in the second half, but honestly, I wasn’t expecting our team to struggle so much in the first match. But at the end, we managed to earn three points, so I think this gave us a great learning experience.

MF #21 DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen)
Our first touch was awful, we couldn’t keep a good distance between ourselves, and our transition was too slow. It was completely different from our previous matches, but all of our matches were played in Japan, so this must be the difficulties when playing abroad. With many of the legendary players retiring, I wanted to succeed their legends, so I am glad I was able to score a goal. I was committed to take a shot once I received the ball. I want to prove that my potential is at a much higher level, so I will heighten my condition ahead of our second and third match.

Yazguly HOJAGELDYYEW, Coach of Turkmenistan National Team
I was expecting Japan to dominate the ball possession, so this was a surprising result. The players did a great job to showcase what they are capable of, but we lost our concentration in the second half, which led to a disappointing result. We ran out of gas in the second half but considering that we have very few international match experience, especially compared to Japan, I think that had a huge impact on this result.


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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