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SAMURAI BLUE conducts training session behind closed doors ahead of the Final against Qatar – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

31 January 2019

SAMURAI BLUE conducts training session behind closed doors ahead of the Final against Qatar – AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 (1/5-2/1)

On Wednesday 30 January, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) held a training session behind closed doors at Abu Dhabi to prepare for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Final against Qatar.

Following their 3-0 victory over Iran at the semi-finals on Monday 28, the team left Al Ain to make their ways to their final match site, Abu Dhabi. With the tournament final scheduled on Friday 1 February, the team held their first training session at Abu Dhabi on this day.

At the training session, defender SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille) was seen on the pitch after he was subbed off due to an apparent injury in the match against Iran. However, midfielder ENDO Wataru (Sint-Truidense V.V.), who also had to leave the match due to an injury, was not present at the session, as he remained at the hotel.

After clinching their first final since the 2011 tournament, the Japanese side showed a positive vibe as they gathered around to listen into the words of Coach MORIYASU Hajime. The training session was opened to the media for the first 15 minutes where the team was seen going through their warmup routines.

The three goalkeepers were seen conducting their own routines as they went over shot blocking drills to get themselves warmed up. The session soon went behind closed doors as the team went through their game tactics.

Japan’s final opponent, Qatar, has made their 10th overall appearance at the Asian Cup, while this marks their first advancement into the final. At the group stage, they have won all three matches to lead Group E, as they defeated Lebanon 2-0, DPR Korea 6-0, and Saudi Arabia 2-0. At the knockout stage, they have won over Iraq 1-0, followed by a 1-0 victory of Korea Republic to clinch their first semi-final appearance. Most recently, they have won over the host nation UAE 4-0 to mark their sixth consecutive clean sheet victory, while scoring a total of 16 goals during that streak.

The Spanish coach, Felix SANCHEZ has been deeply involved with the Qatar youth development system that was launched by the Qatar government in 2004, and his experience dealing with the current national team players from the underage categories has allowed him to nurture a strong bond with the team.

Japanese goalkeeper GONDA Shuichi (Sagan Tosu) shared his take on their next opponent, “The country is striving to strengthen the team ahead of the World Cup, and their efforts are getting payed off at this Asian Cup. They are capable of showcasing what they are striving for.”

Defender SHIOTANI Tsukasa (Al Ain FC) also described Qatar, “They have players who can score, and their defence is solid. They are a great team overall.” From his experience of playing against Qatari teams at the AFC Champions League, Shiotani pointed out the key aspects of the match, “They will be seeking for chances to counter, so we must manage the risks as a team. We must overwhelm them at the fundamental level, such as creativity, decision makings, and mobility.”

The two sides have played against each other eight times, where Japan holds a record of two wins, four draws, and two losses. The most recent match was at the 2011 Asian Cup held in Qatar, where the two sides clashed at the quarterfinals, which Japan won the match 3-2. A win at their next match will crown Japan their fifth overall Asian Cup title, first since 2011.

The final is scheduled to kick-off at 18:00 (23:00 Japan time) on Friday 1 February at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Players' Comments

GK #12 GONDA Shuichi (Sagan Tosu)
Our opponent has been able to showcase what they are striving for. It is important that we give them no space to exploit. Our strengths lie on our ability to work collectively in each of our plays, so we hope to continue on that aspect. We have tried many things throughout this tournament, and we must utilise that experience in our next match. We will do our best to show what we have been striving for as a team.

DF #5 NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.)
All players from both sides must be quite fatigued, so our mental strengths will be tested at the final match. Our reserve players have managed to contribute to our games, which shows our overall strengths as a team. Every player on this squad is capable of playing on the pitch, as each and every player has shown their improvements over the course. Qatar has players with great speed, and we must stay alerted to their counter attacks. We must utilise our experience from the Belgium match at the World Cup.

DF #16 TOMIYASU Takehiro (Sint-Truidense V.V.)
Qatar consists with players with great speed, and they are capable of passing the ball more fluently than Iran. We cannot just focus on covering their #19, so our collective effort will be tested. We must also stay vocal to keep ourselves on the same page, especially when dealing against their counter attacks.

MF #7 SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.)
We were forced to play tough matches from the very beginning of this tournament, but our team condition has improved dramatically over the six matches we’ve played. I feel like we have become more of a team compared to the early matches of this tournament, and I am feeling more unity from this team even outside of the pitch. I personally have managed to regain my game intuition over the matches, and I am positive that I can enter the final in my best condition. Once the game starts, we will stay flexible and make our adjustments on the field.

MF #21 DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen)
Our team is surrounded by a great atmosphere. Qatar has kept a clean sheet in all of their matches, and they are a great opponent to face. I am looking forward for this match. In order to win the title, we must continue to showcase our usual football while seeking to make a small difference. I hope to be that player who can become that small difference.

Schedule

SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) Squad, Schedule

AFC ASIAN CUP UAE 2019

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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