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SAMURAI BLUE trains ahead of Final against Qatar – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

30 January 2019

SAMURAI BLUE trains ahead of Final against Qatar – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

One day after clinching the final of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 with a 3-0 victory over the Iran National Team, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) held a training session in Al Ain on Tuesday 29 January.

On this day, the other half of the semi-finals concluded, as the 2022 FIFA World Cup host nation, Qatar defeated this tournament’s host nation UAE, who was led by former Japan National Team Coach Alberto ZACCHERONI, 4-0. As a result, Japan will now face Qatar at the final on Friday 1 February.

At the training session, all the players who were unused on the day before along with MUROYA Sei (F.C. Tokyo) and ITO Junya (Kashiwa Reysol), who were brought on as late substitutes, appeared on the field. The starting eleven including OSAKO Yuya (Werder Bremen) and MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg), along with the second half substitute SHIOTANI Tsukasa (Al Ain FC) stayed at the hotel to recover their bodies.

The players were seen taking a light jog and passing the ball around to warmup, followed by a 5 vs 5 drill that was played inside a small grid. The team then conducted a shooting drill that involved two players to combine with each other before taking shots.

A 4 vs 4 mini-game was played where the players were restricted with the amount of touches they were allowed to take, as they went over their transitions between offence and defence.

The session concluded with individual trainings, as each player worked on their own drills. Ahead of the final, forward MUTO Yoshinori (Newcastle United) mentioned, “This is our last match. I will condition myself over 100%,” as he conducted shuttle runs along with MAKINO Tomoaki (Urawa Red Diamonds) and SASAKI Sho (Sanfrecce Hiroshima). Defenders Muroya and MIURA Genta (Gamba Osaka) repeatedly went over their long-balls to check their feel of the ball, while KITAGAWA Koya (Shimizu S-Pulse), INUI Takashi (Deportivo Alaves), and Ito worked on their shots.

The two players who were subbed off due to injury in the match against Iran, ENDO Wataru (Sint-Truidense V.V.) and SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille), were both taken to the hospital in Abu Dhabi to get checked up.

Following the training session, the team took lunch at their hotel before making their ways to Abu Dhabi. Starting from Wednesday 30, the team will work out at Abu Dhabi to prepare for the final.

The final against Qatar will be held on Friday 1 February at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Players' Comments

DF #3 MUROYA Sei (F.C. Tokyo)
I was used as a late substitute in the match against Iran, and it was very difficult to enter the match to replace the fullback in that time period. I kept my focus on keeping my plays simple and avoiding getting scored on. I am just glad that we managed to keep a clean sheet. When the opportunity comes, I am always ready to play, and I am confident that I can get the job done. I am fully prepared for the final. I hope to contribute to the team in anyway possible.

DF #4 SASAKI Sho (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
We have not achieved anything yet. The next match is the one that really matters, so we must insist on winning. I feel like we have shown more and more unity as a team. If I am given the opportunity, I will give 120% to help the team. We must all give our very best and strive for the win.

MF #7 SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.)
With the win over Iran, we have earned our rights to compete for the tournament title, which has been our goal from the beginning. At the semi-finals, we saw many plays that reflected what we have been working on since Coach MORIYASU took over the team. The players entered the match with great intentions, and we managed to finish the match contrary to popular belief in a good way, which gave us great confidence.

MF #8 HARAGUCHI Genki (Hannover 96)
We were able to play a good match. Compared to playing against teams who drop deep to play a defensive match, this was a much easier match to play for us. It allowed us to stay focus in defence, while our offence stayed sharp throughout the match. The first goal was huge for us because we managed to take control of the match following that goal. Coach Moriyasu has been preaching us to continue our plays until the whistle, and Minamino’s play really reflected that concept. I wasn’t able to get myself involved in our offence that much, so in the scene where I scored the third goal, I went ahead and took the risk to push forward, which went well for us. I feel like I was able to play with great composure. The last goal shows how much I have improved in the mental aspect.

FW #11 KITAGAWA Koya (Shimizu S-Pulse)
Both Japan and Iran are top teams in Asia, and watching the top teams clash at this stage has given me a great experience. Osako’s presence has also given me a great learning experience. From here on, how much we can prepare ourselves as a team will be a key factor. Losing at the final means the same as losing out at the group stage. It is a match we cannot afford to lose and if I am given the opportunity, I will give my very best to contribute to the team victory.

FW #13 MUTO Yoshinori (Newcastle United)
Japan has performed superbly against Iran and it made me believe that we can win against any team, if we can play our own game. When the match enters a tough stretch, substitutions will be required in the second half, so I will focus on making myself available in those situations. The strengths of Japan lie on our ability to work hard in both offence and defence. That’s something we were able to showcase against Iran, and we managed to keep possession with great ball movements. Our ability to stay composed has led us to that big victory. We have the strengths to keep this performance going, so we hope to showcase another great performance at the final.


SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) Squad, Schedule


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

Knockout Stage Final:
Fri. 1 February Kick-off 23:00 (Japan Time)
vs Qatar National Team

Broadcasting: Televised Live at TV Asahi Group
BS Broadcasting: Televised Live at NHKBS1

Tournament Information

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