SAMURAI BLUE tests new system in scoreless draw against Trinidad and Tobago at the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2019 (6/5 @Aichi)
06 June 2019
On Wednesday 5 June, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) faced the Trinidad and Tobago National Team at the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2019 held at Toyota Stadium, Aichi. With Coach MORIYASU Hajime employing a new system for this match, the team finished with a scoreless draw.
As the team prepares for the upcoming Asian qualifiers of the FIFA World Cup 2022, Coach Moriyasu elected to implement a three-back formation, which was an option he had been considering since taking over the helm last September.
In the early minutes of the match, the players seem to be testing their distance and timing with each other under the new system, where OSAKO Yuya (Werder Bremen) was positioned as the lone striker with NAKAJIMA Shoya (Al Duhail SC) and DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen) playing beneath him. NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.) and SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille) were positioned in the flanks to act as the wing backs.
As the match progressed, the team showed improvements with the new system and started to create opportunities to threaten the opposing goal. In the 24th minute, Osako struck a shot off a cross delivered by Sakai, followed by an attempt made by Doan in the 28th minute, where he chased down a delivery from SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.), but in both occasions, the opposing goalkeeper came up with a save to deny Japan from scoring the opener.
Nakajima came close to scoring a goal in the closing minutes of the first half, as he struck the cross bar with his freekick, followed by another close shot taken from midrange. In the second half, Doan, Sakai, and Osako combined well to exchange quick passes to create an opportunity in the 60th minute, but once again fell short from capturing the goal.
Trinidad and Tobago, who is preparing for the CONCACAF Gold Cup that is about to take place from Saturday 15 June, had their own moments to threaten the Japanese goal. A close opportunity was created in the 21st minute from a freekick, while Levi GARCIA broke into the penalty area to strike a shot in the 55th minute, followed by a header struck by Kevan GEORGE off a corner kick, but the Japanese goalkeeper SCHMIDT Daniel (Vegalta Sendai) made the saves to block all the chances created by the Caribbean side.
Following the 60th minute mark, MUROYA Sei (F.C. Tokyo), KOBAYASHI Yuki (SC Heerenveen), ITO Junya (K.R.C. Genk), MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg), and HARAGUCHI Genki (Hannover 96) were introduced to the match to change the dynamics of the match and add layers to their offence. In the final minutes of the match, Japan fired consecutive shots to threaten the opposing goal, as Shibasaki, Minamino, SHOJI Gen (Toulouse Football Club), and Ito tested their luck at goal, but with the fine saves made by the goalkeeper, Japan fell short from finding the back of the net to finish the match in a scoreless draw.
Japan will now face the El Salvador National Team on Sunday 9 at Hitomebore Stadium Miyagi.
Coaches and Players' Comments
MORIYASU Hajime, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
It is truly disappointing that we couldn’t meet the expectations of our fans. Despite playing under an unfamiliar system, the players made the adjustments on the field and kept challenging themselves. In offence, our defenders and goalkeeper did a good job in their build-up plays to carry the ball upfront, while the plays to utilise our wingbacks got better as the match progressed, which ultimately led to adding layers to our offence. I feel like our players did a great job on making the adjustments to exploit the opponent’s weak points, however, it was disappointing to finish scoreless after we fired a total of 25 shots during this match. Although we must improve the quality of our plays in the final third, the fact that our players managed to create opportunities under this new formation gives us hope for the future matches.
In defence, there were some occasions where we couldn’t apply the pressure effectively under the new system, but the players kept their focus to showcase a persistent effort throughout the match. The biggest merit to employ the three-back formation is to add width to our offence. With limited time ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in September, we hope to nurture the players’ game intuition to make this an option for our future matches.
After failing to win our match today, we will prepare ourselves within the next three days to win our match in Miyagi. I know everyone is anticipating for KUBO (Takefusa) to play in the match, but with all the pressure surrounding him, I thought it’s best to gradually get him involved into the action. Not only Kubo, but the players are treasures of Japan. We will continue to seek for ways to give our young talents the best possible opportunities to thrive as a player.
DF #3 SHOJI Gen (Toulouse Football Club)
With the team given just two days to train, the system is still work in progress, but the players did a fine job to showcase their quality and perform a good football overall. There were mistakes made both at the team level and the individual level, so we need to address those issues, but we also need to acknowledge the positives from this match. By changing the numbers of defenders in the formation, the entire style of football changes. The national team consists with many high-quality players, so as long as we continue to make our efforts, we should be able to showcase plays at a high level.
DF #5 NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.)
It’s been several years since I last played as a wingback, so I had to use my head throughout the match, and it tired out my brain. However, it means a lot for us to have the option to play with a three-back formation. We suffered a tough loss against Belgium in last year’s World Cup, and the result could have been different if we had the option to shift our formation to a three-back formation in the closing minutes of the match.
MF #7 SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.)
In our first attempt to employ the three-back formation, I feel like it went rather well, especially because I wasn’t expecting it to go so well in our first try. Our opponents played deep in their territory, but we still created many opportunities, and we couldn’t convert them. If we are going to implement this three-back formation as our option, we must construct our offensive patterns to score goals from this system. Most of our players are used to playing in a four-back system and we lack the experience with this three-back system, but it also means that we have plenty of room for improvements with the new system.
MF #11 NAKAJIMA Shoya (Al Duhail SC)
Under the three-back formation, I was getting more opportunities to play in the central area of the field, so I focused on my positioning during this match. There were also many new things I’ve noticed through the match. We must address the fact we were kept scoreless in today’s match and utilise this experience to improve our plays in the next match. It doesn’t mean that the new system was not effective, as all systems have their own strong points. We hope to showcase that strong point in our next match.
MF #21 DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen)
I entered the match with the intention to keep possession of the ball. Under the new system, we are forced to play with one less player upfront, so I focused on the combination plays with the other two players. I think the aim and approach of this new system was not a bad. However, I feel responsible for the team getting kept scoreless, it was our responsibility as attackers to score goals.
Dennis LAWRENCE, Coach (Trinidad and Tobago National Team)
Japan is a fantastic team and as expected, they controlled the ball possession and utilised the width of the field to pin us back in our own territory. We suspected that they would come out with a three-back formation after taking a look at the roster sheet. In offence, we couldn’t possess the ball and failed to create much opportunities, but the players performed well to make their case for the Goal Cup. We were dominated towards the end of the match, but our goalkeeper showcased a stellar job to keep the clean sheet, and I am happy with our overall performance.
SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) vs Trinidad and Tobago National Team
Match Date: Wed. 5 June 2019 Kick-off time 19:30
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Aichi
SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) vs El Salvador National Team
Match Date: Sun. 9 June 2019 Kick-off 19:00
Venue: Hitomebore Stadium Miyagi, Miyagi
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