SAMURAI BLUE holds training behind closed doors ahead of match against Iran – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)
27 January 2019
On Saturday 26 January, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) travelled to Al Ain, where they will play their semi-final match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 against the Iran National Team. With the match scheduled in two days, the team held a training session under closed doors.
The team travelled from Dubai to Al Ain in the morning and held a training session in the evening, where the first 15 minutes was opened to the media.
On this day, a precautionary measure was taken for defender MAKINO Tomoaki (Urawa Red Diamonds) as he remained at the hotel due to an illness.
The training session started with players conducting their warmup routines, as they were seen taking a light jog, stretching their bodies, and going through core trainings. Agility drills followed for the field players, while the goalkeepers went through their own drills.
The session was then closed to the media as the team went through their tactics in a session which lasted for about an hour and a half.
Japan’s next opponent, Iran has been managed under Coach Carlos QUEIROZ since 2011, and his football philosophy is well understood by his players. In the recent five matches played at this tournament, Iran has scored 12 goals while conceding zero goals to advance to their first semi-finals in three tournament appearances.
The two sides have faced each other at the Asian Cup three times in the past, as all three matches were played at the group stage, and Japan has the upper hand with a record of two wins and a draw. When looking at the overall numbers, a total of 16 matches were played between Japan and Iran, where Japan holds a record of five wins, five draws, and six loses. The most recent match between the two, was in 2015 when they drew 1-1 in an international friendly match at Tehran.
Midfielder SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.) described their next opponents, “They are a top-class team in Asia, with height and great techniques. The match should present us with a great challenge.” He continued by stating, “There will be holes where we can exploit. We must analyse their game thoroughly to anticipate for those opportunities.”
DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen), who scored the winning goal at the quarterfinals, shared his aspiration, “They are an opponent worth challenging for. Only by winning over the strongest team in Asia, we can become the true champions of Asia.”
The semi-final match between Japan and Iran will kick-off at 18:00 (23:00 Japan time) on Monday 28.
Although Japan has played in Al Ain at the group stage, the semi-final match will take place at a different stadium, as their next match will be at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium. Japan has played at this stadium in the final round of the Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2018, where they won over UAE 2-0.
GK #1 HIGASHIGUCHI Masaaki (Gamba Osaka)
We must manage the risks of the counter attacks. I am more accurate with my throws than my punts, so I will focus on making accurate throws to initiate our attacks. In our matches, the goalkeepers are asked to start the build-ups. Although I have given up opportunities to our opponents in the previous match, we still managed to keep a clean sheet, so I will keep on challenging in that aspect. Our coach has also told me to stay positive and keep on trying to connect the ball safely in those situations.
DF #5 NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.)
We will be facing the Iranian side, who are considered as the strongest team in Asia, so this match will present us with the toughest challenge thus far. If we give up any mistakes, our opponents will surely capitalise on it. If we keep playing the way we have been, this will be a difficult match. I am sure that the match will be at a level where it can go either way.
DF #16 TOMIYASU Takehiro (Sint-Truidense V.V.)
As long as we are striving to win the title, this is an opponent we must defeat. They are a very strong team, so we must enter the match fully prepared, both mentally and physically. If we show any flaws, they will certainly exploit it, so it will be important that we stay focused throughout the match. In each of our matches, we have become able to make better decision makings to anticipate for the next play. That is a key aspect we must keep doing in our next match.
MF #7 SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.)
Iran has not conceded a goal thus far, but they have given up many critical opportunities to their opponents. There will be holes we can exploit, so we must analyse their game thoroughly and anticipate for those opportunities. Each and every decision making will influence the match. We have improved so much as a team, so we hope to showcase our full potential in our next match. I think the odds are fifty-fifty, and the match can go either way.
MF #9 MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg)
Iran is a very well-balanced team with good offence and defence. Ever since I was little, I have always thought that Iran is one of the strongest team in Asia. We must stay strong and fight hard for each ball. The team has built a great atmosphere thus far, so we will keep on preparing ourselves ahead of the next match.
MF #21 DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen)
Iran will present us with an even higher challenge, and they are an opponent worth challenging for. We must not worry of the opponent’s individual strengths, but rather believe in our own abilities and take on the opponents thinking that we have the upper-hand. It’s important to think that way, and if we can play with such mentality, we will become the aggressor to make things happen.
FW #11 KITAGAWA Koya (Shimizu S-Pulse)
In order to win the tournament, we must defeat Iran at some point. They have many talented players and the match will present us with a different challenge from before. But if we can play our game for the 90 or 120 minutes, I am sure that we can win the match. It is a match we cannot afford to lose.
AFC ASIAN CUP UAE 2019
Tournament Dates: Sat. 5 January - Fri. 1 February 2019
Knockout Stage Semi-Finals:
Mon. 28 January Kick-off 23:00 (Japan Time)
vs Iran National Team
Broadcasting: Televised Live at TV Asahi Group
BS Broadcasting: Televised Live at NHKBS1
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