SAMURAI BLUE wins intense battle against Uruguay to mark 3 consecutive victories at KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2018
17 October 2018
On Tuesday 16 October, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) faced the Uruguay National Team in the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2018 at Saitama Stadium 2002. Facing the South American side who is ranked fifth in the FIFA rankings, Japan earned a 4-3 victory thanks to the brace scored by midfielder MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg) who is in a three-game scoring streak. With this win, Japan has now recorded three consecutive victories under the new regime of Coach MORIYASU Hajime.
Following their 3-0 victory over the Panama National Team four days ago, Coach Moriyasu has rotated his starting line-up with the exception of OSAKO Yuya (Werder Bremen) and Minamino, who has started in all three matches under the new coach. With HIGASHIGUCHI Masaaki (Gamba Osaka) in goal, NAGATOMO Yuto (Galatasaray S.K.), SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille), YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC), and MIURA Genta (Gamba Osaka) featured the defence line, while SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe C.F.) and ENDO Wataru (Sint-Truidense V.V.) were placed in the defensive midfield position. NAKAJIMA Shoya (Portimonense S.C.), DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen), and Minamino were named in the midfield with Osako playing as the lone striker.
In contrast, the Uruguayan starting line-up saw just two changes since their previous match against the Korea Republic National Team four days ago. Forward Edinson CAVANI and defender Diego GODIN were included in the line-up that featured nine of the members who participated in the recent World Cup where the team finished in the top eight.
The opening goal came in the 10th minute, as Minamino later reflected, “We were anticipating to make a move in the early minutes,” the in-form midfielder received the ball from Nakajima before making a brilliant turn to free himself up and struck a right-footed shot to give his side the early lead. It was the first time since LOPES Wagner in 1997, where a player scored in three consecutive matches following his first national team goal.
Uruguay struck the equaliser in the 28th minute when Japan gave up a free kick in the left flank. Uruguayan defender Sebastian COATES headed the delivery back into the mix to allow Gaston PEREIRO to tap the ball into the net. However, Japan would respond just eight minutes later, when Doan released the ball to Nakajima who made his move to the goal area and struck a shot. The shot was initially blocked by the goalkeeper, but Osako was there to convert the loose ball to give Japan the lead once again.
Japan entered the second half with a 2-1 lead, but in the 57th minute, the Japanese defence line made a mistake by passing the ball back to their goalkeeper Higashiguchi while Cavani was still in the goal area. The Uruguayan striker swiped the ball away and capitalised on the opportunity to level the match. But just two minutes later, Japan showed their resilience once again when Doan played a give-and-go with Sakai to burst into the box and struck a left-footed shot to mark his first national team goal, making the score 3-2. With momentum on their side, Japan forced a turnover deep in the opponent’s half in the 66th minute, allowing Doan to strike a shot. His effort was blocked by the goalkeeper, but Minamoto was there to convert the rebound to extend their lead to 4-2.
As seen in many occasions, Osako did well to hold onto the ball upfront, while Nagatomo and Sakai took care of the spaces in the flanks. With the young players excelling in offence, the experienced players did their job to keep the team intact, just as Coach Moriyasu has been striving to create a fusion among different generations.
Japan conceded another goal in the 78th minute, when they were caught off-guards following their substitution. A counter led to Cavani’s last pass to Jonathan RODRIGUEZ, who struck Uruguay’s third goal. The match would see more opportunities created by Japan in the closing minutes, but it ended with a final score of 4-3.
The team showcased quick fast breaks and their eagerness to finish their attacks with a shot, but at the same time their weakness was also exposed in this match. Nonetheless, the team has now recorded three consecutive victories since Coach Moriyasu has taken over the helm. This was the first time the national side has done so since Coach Vahid HALILHODZIC took over in 2016.
Japan will now face the Venezuela National Team on 16 November at Oita, followed by the Kyrgyz Republic National Team on 20 November at Toyota.
Coaches and Players' Comments
MORIYASU Hajime, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
I would like to thank all of our fans for supporting us at the stadium and through the broadcast. I would also like to thank KIRIN for providing us with this wonderful opportunity to play against a world-class team. This result was made possible by our players who challenged themselves to play to their full potential and stayed eager to win the match. The collective efforts made by the four attacking players and the long feeds provided by the defence line has really seemed to function well together. The young players like Nakajima, Minamino, and Doan has really shown their strong intention to score a goal. I hope to gather what these players have felt confident through this match and implement them into the team’s overall strategy. However, despite showing great attitude in offence, we could have conceded less goals. We wanted to at least finish this match at 4-2. The players executed our game plan to challenge the ball aggressively and showcased very persistent defence, but we must take better care for the set-plays. I feel that the World Cup match against Belgium has really given the players, especially those who plays in the domestic leagues, the confidence that they can put up an equal fight against the world’s top teams. We hope to heighten the overall quality of our plays and strive for a higher level.
DF #22 YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC)
As a defender, I have a mixed feeling because we have conceded three goals, but overall, I believe we showcased a great match. I was actually surprised by how many goals our offence scored today. We showed many vertical approaches in this match which was something Coach Halilhodzic has preached us in the past. However, the first goal was conceded from an unnecessary foul I have committed, and the second goal was purely our mistake. The third goal could have been avoided as well. It’s been a while since we have kept a clean sheet with our full member on the pitch, so we must improve on that aspect.
MF #9 MINAMINO Takumi (FC Red Bull Salzburg)
I knew we were going to face a tough opponent, but I managed to keep my composure and stayed focused on helping out the team. I had a sense of urgency that the new players upfront must make the difference, so I was committed to earn results today. The two goals I scored today gave me great confidence and I was able to prove that I belong here ahead of the Asia Cup. But more than anything, I am just glad I was able to help the team win.
MF #21 DOAN Ritsu (FC Groningen)
In the scene where I scored the goal, at that moment I passed the ball, in my mind I was begging Sakai to return the ball to me. The most important thing is the team’s victory, and I believe that I was able to contribute with my hard work. I also managed to showcase a stable performance throughout the 90 minutes without being overly attached to scoring goals.
FW #15 OSAKO Yuya (Werder Bremen)
With many players anticipating to make vertical runs, I focused on settling the ball upfront. We got a bit shaky after the score was 4-2, and we still have long ways to go, but I believe that we should ride this momentum created by the young players for now. It will be ideal if we can maintain this momentum while the veterans take control to keep the team intact.
Oscar TABAREZ, Coach (Uruguay National Team)
We saw a total of seven goals and many opportunities. Both teams’ defence line made many mistakes and the flow of the game did not go in our favour. We struggled to play how we wanted to in the first half but managed to perform well early in the second half. However, we were not fit enough to carry the momentum towards the end of the game. The Japanese goalkeeper made two excellent saves. I am proud of my players for their aggressive approach, despite making mistakes. That attitude is very important at the world stage like the World Cup. Japan showed great speed and combinations upfront. They were a great team and they certainly deserved this win.
Fri. 16 November 2018 kick-off at 19:30
SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) vs Venezuela National Team
Tue. 20 November 2018 kick-off at 19:20
SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) vs Kyrgyz Republic National Team
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