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SAMURAI BLUE holds training session behind closed doors ahead of match against Oman – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

12 January 2019

SAMURAI BLUE holds training session behind closed doors ahead of match against Oman – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

On Friday 11 January, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) held a training session behind closed doors in Abu Dhabi, two days ahead of their second group stage match against Oman at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

The session was conducted under a rather chilly evening where the first 15 minutes was opened to the media. The players were seen going over their warmup routines before the session was closed to the media, as the team went over their tactics. Forward OSAKO Yuya (Werder Bremen) was not seen on the pitch, as he remained at the hotel to condition himself due to the effect of the right hip injury he sustained during a league match in late December.

Japan will be facing Oman in the second group stage match, where the opponent is coming off a close loss against Uzbekistan with a score of 1-2. Oman is currently fourth place in Group F, and they will be fighting with their tournament life at stake.

Coach Pim VERBEEK leads the Oman side, a coach who has led the Korea Republic and Australia National Team in the past, who also has coaching experience at the J. League. Since his arrival to the team in December 2016, Oman, who has ranked as low as 121st in the FIFA rankings in 2016, has risen to 82nd within the past two years.

With the team making its fourth Asian Cup appearance this year, which is their second consecutive appearance following the 2015 tournament, the team conducted four friendly matches in December to condition themselves. The team carried a remarkable 14-match undefeated streak until they lost to Australia in one of their training matches played in late December.

Midfielder SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.) alerted his side by stating, “They seem to be in great condition. We must be careful of their speed,” while the captain YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC) also mentioned, “Compared to our first opponent, our next opponent can create more threats from their counter attacks. They are not an easy opponent to face, so the accuracy of our defence and the quality of our offence will be tested.”

The match will kick-off at 17:30 (22:30 Japan time) on Sunday 13 January at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. With 24 entrants, top two teams from each group will automatically qualify to the knockout stage, while the top four teams among the third-place finishers will also advance to the next stage.

Players' Comments

GK #1 HIGASHIGUCHI Masaaki (Gamba Osaka)
After watching their match against Uzbekistan, it was evident that Oman is capable of initiating quick counter attacks. The match itself could have gone either way, so we should expect a tough match. The Middle East players has a unique timing to respond to cross balls, so we must be very careful.

DF #16 TOMIYASU Takehiro (Sint-Truidense V.V.)
I was positioned in the defensive midfield role in our first match, but it really made me realise the difficulty of entering a tournament. I am not satisfied with my performance and I have many aspects to improve on. I also felt the need to heighten my condition as well. With our next match kicking off at 17:30 (compared to the first match kicking off at 15:00), that should make a big difference. It felt quite different between the first half and second half during our match against Turkmenistan. I was too eager to get myself involved in our offence, which made me out of position when we turned over the ball. I was not making myself available to support our defence line, so I need to make better decision makings by reading the flow of the match. Following the first match, we must improve ourselves in the next match.

DF #22 YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC)
After conceding two goals in our first match, we must prepare ourselves even more to respond to our opponents’ counter attacks. Every player on this team, regardless of either they are from a European club or a Japanese club, we must heighten our conditions, but after playing a match, it felt like we were showing good mobility in our training session today. The cooler climate will definitely help as well. It is important that we improve our fitness level and earn points at each match in the group stage. During their match against Uzbekistan, Oman showcased many scenes where they launched counter attacks from their solid defence, and they are capable of creating more threats than our opponents in the first match. We must stay focused and fight with caution. If we can do what we are supposed to do, a positive result should follow.

MF #8 HARAGUCHI Genki (Hannover 96)
Prior to this tournament, we have been saying that our ability to adjust to changes will be tested, but that was definitely the case in our first match against Turkmenistan. It would have been better if we were able to do so during the first half, but we still managed to make the adjustments in the second half. Our team might have been stressed-out by the expectations surrounding us. Including myself, many of us were insisting on winning the match with top-quality performance, but in real tournaments, it’s more important that we make sure to win the match in any way possible. The match has allowed us to realise that very simple concept. Our conditions should be getting better from here on as well.

MF #17 AOYAMA Toshihiro (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
Oman will be playing with a fast tempo and they will be anticipating for their opportunities to counter attack. Facing a team like that, we must keep possession of the ball as much as possible and make them chase the ball. The more we make mistakes, the more opportunities we give to our opponents to counter attack. We played well in the second half of the first match, so we must carry that image into our next match. If we can utilise the width of the field as much as we did in our last match, there will be a gap created in the central area. Our opponents will come out strong to win the ball, so we must keep a wider perspective to decide when to attack and when to be patient.

FW #13 MUTO Yoshinori (Newcastle United)
After watching their match, it gave us a good idea of how they play. We must utilise the information and implement it in our trainings so that we can make the adjustments in the match. I will focus on plays to give our younger players the momentum while anticipating the opportunity to get myself involved in our team’s goals. I am sure that our opponents will get uncomfortable if I kept on exploiting the space behind their defence line, so that’s what I am looking to do. In the national team, I have always been considered as a flank player, but I am finally considered as a striker, so I must prove that I am capable of playing upfront and scoring goals. If I can leave results, the position will be taken by the younger players, so I will give my best in my natural position.


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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