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HOME > SAMURAI BLUE 2024 > NEWS > 【Match Report】SAMURAI BLUE eliminated by IR Iran in the quarterfinals of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023


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【Match Report】SAMURAI BLUE eliminated by IR Iran in the quarterfinals of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023

04 February 2024

【Match Report】SAMURAI BLUE eliminated by IR Iran in the quarterfinals of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023

On Saturday, 3 February, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) took on IR Iran in the quarterfinals of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023. Despite taking the lead in the first half, Japan conceded a pair of goals in the second half, including the decisive goal during additional time, to lose the match 1-2.

In a clash between two Asian giants, Japan and IR Iran, currently ranked 17th and 21st respectively in the FIFA rankings, each side made four changes to their starting line-up.

Against an opponent who fought for possession with great intensity, Japan patiently passed the ball around and took the lead in the 28th minute. The goal came when MORITA Hidemasa (Sporting CP) played a pass towards the centre where UEDA Ayase (Feyenoord) collected the ball before passing it back to the defensive midfielder, who cut inside and struck a right-footed shot that deflected off the Iranian goalkeeper and into the net.

Although it was Japan who opened the scoring, IR Iran began to dominate the game towards the end of the first half with their long balls. In the 39th minute, Saman GHODDOS came close to scoring the equaliser with a half-volley from the edge of the area, but the midfielder's effort flew just wide of the Japanese goal.

In the second half, IR Iran continued to dominate the game as they delivered more and more dangerous balls into the Japanese half. After challenging SUZUKI Zion (Sint-Truidense VV) with a shot from inside the area in the 50th minute, Sardar AZMOUN delivered a well-timed through ball into the box to set up Mohammad MOHEBI for a goal in the 55th minute.

Japan had their moments before the equaliser, with Ueda latching onto a cross from KUBO Takefusa (Real Sociedad) and heading over in the 51st minute, and Kubo's left-footed shot two minutes later, assisted by MAEDA Daizen (Celtic FC), going just wide. However, they struggled to clear the second ball after conceding the goal, allowing IR Iran to build on their momentum.

After a goal scored by Azmoun was ruled out for offside by VAR, coach MORIYASU Hajime brought on MINAMINO Takumi (AS Monaco) and MITOMA Kaoru (Brighton & Hove Albion FC) in the 67th minute in a bid to change the dynamic of the game, but IR Iran continued to dominate.

As the second half drew to a close, the decisive moment came in the third minute of additional time when a long ball into the Japanese penalty area caused confusion between the two centre-backs and the ball fell between them, allowing Iranian defender Hossein KANANI to get his feet to the ball before being fouled by ITAKURA Kou (Borussia MG). Alireza JAHANBAKHSH calmly converted the spot-kick to give IR Iran the lead in the fourth minute of additional time.

With time running out, coach Moriyasu sent on HOSOYA Mao (Kashiwa Reysol) and ASANO Takuma (VfL Bochum) in the hope of taking the match into extra time, but the final whistle soon sounded to signal the end of Japan's campaign at the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023.

Elsewhere, Qatar beat Uzbekistan on penalties after extra time ended 1-1. Korea Republic beat Australia 2-1 in extra time, while Jordan defeated tournament debutants Tajikistan 1-0.

As a result, the semi-final fixtures have been confirmed, with Jordan facing Korea Republic on Tuesday, 6 February and Iran taking on Qatar on Wednesday, 7 February. The final will be played on Saturday, 10 February.

Coaches and Players' Comments

MORIYASU Hajime, Head Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
Unfortunately, we were knocked out in the quarterfinals. It is a shame that we were unable to send a message of encouragement to our supporters and those affected by the earthquake on the Noto peninsula, and to those cheering us on across the country. The result is my responsibility, and I would like to thank the players and staff for their efforts. We struggled against Iran's long balls, and I told the players to make sure they challenged and covered, won the aerial battles and picked up the second ball if they couldn't win it. I also told them to be patient and wait for their chances to counter, but it didn't work as we were pinned down by the intensity of our opponents. We tried to use our substitutions to inject energy and drive into the game, but it didn't work out the way we had hoped because of the strength of the Iranian defence.
We have conceded in all five of our games in this tournament. There have been a couple of games where we should have kept a clean sheet, so there are definitely areas we need to look at and improve. We need to improve our overall performance in terms of how we deal with pressure, because we were under pressure from our opponents throughout the game, including the last scene where we conceded the goal. You are bound to concede goals when you play a strong opponent, so we had to try harder to score the second goal while we were in the lead. We felt that we had to improve the way we defended and collected the second ball when our opponents played long balls. We were up against one of the best attacking teams in Asia, who are certainly capable of competing at the world level, but I want our players to improve so that they can take on any opponent and I feel it is my job to help them improve.

DF #4 ITAKURA Kou (Borussia MG/Germany)
I feel responsible for the defeat. A centre-back has to play better for the team to win, so I am very sorry for my poor performance. I need to review the moment when I conceded the penalty, but I could have cleared the ball before that play. I was just concentrating on the ball and not paying attention to the runner behind me, so I had to play with a wider perspective. It was such a tight situation and even though I heard Tomiyasu's voice, I wasn't fully aware of the situation behind me. I made the decision to go for the ball but failed to connect with it. I needed to be more aware of the situation around me. Both teams were playing on two days' rest, so I cannot use that as an excuse. My whole performance made me feel that I am not worthy of playing for the national team and that I need to play with more responsibility.

DF #22 TOMIYASU Takehiro (Arsenal/England)
After leading 1-0 at the half, we asked our attackers to score more goals in the second half. We had a couple of close chances at the start of the second half, but we failed to capitalise on them, while the defence also failed to hold on to the lead. It was like all our bad habits came out today and I am not sure how many people are trying to fix them. To be honest, I didn't feel the commitment and desire from our team today. We didn't see anyone stepping up. Nobody took the initiative to communicate, to show their tenacity in defence or to attack with the intention of changing the momentum of the game. We need to do better. As for the last penalty, I just had to clear the ball in the first place.

MF/FW #5 MORITA Hidemasa (Sporting CP/Portugal)
As a defensive midfielder, I would have liked to have been able to help the team play with more composure in possession, while at the same time limiting the opposition's options in defence and helping my team-mates to anticipate the next move. I was lucky to score a goal, but I feel like I couldn't do anything else. It was clear that we hadn't been able to put right the problems we had exposed in the loss to Iraq. Although we knew it wouldn't be easy, we came to this tournament with the intention of raising the profile of Japanese football by winning the Asian Cup, but today's defeat reminded us how difficult it really is. We were simply overwhelmed by our opponents, and it made us realise that we still have a long way to go.

MF/FW #6 ENDO Wataru (Liverpool FC/England)
We failed to capitalise on the few chances we had in the second half. It didn't necessarily feel like we were being outplayed when we conceded the first goal, but there were a few things that didn't go our way. Similar to the game against Iraq, the team needs to find out and decide on a formation, whether to play four or five at the back, against teams that prefer to play simple long balls. This tournament has reminded us of the difference between playing in the World Cup and playing in Asia, so we need to use this experience to build our strategy for Asian competitions. We need to get away from our ultimate goal of winning the World Cup and find the best way to play in this particular tournament. The whole team has been reminded of the difficulties of winning in Asia, so we just need to make the most of it, get our minds right and get on with the job at our respective clubs.

MF/FW #7 MITOMA Kaoru (Brighton & Hove Albion FC/England)
I personally wasn't able to play to my full potential and make a difference in the game. We were too passive. We didn't press the ball hard enough against a team that played long balls, and we were too focused on winning the second ball, which meant that we sat back too much and gave our opponents enough space to set up their attacks. We had to play differently against them. I made a conscious effort to carry the ball forward when I had possession, but I didn't get the ball enough and even when I did, I couldn’t do much with it. Similar to the World Cup, I have to acknowledge the fact that I wasn't able to contribute much to the team, while some players fought hard throughout the tournament to help the team. It was unfortunate that I was injured, but I feel I could have prepared better, so I have nothing but regrets.

MF/FW #10 DOAN Ritsu (SC Freiburg/Germany)
From the last Asian Cup to the Olympics, the World Cup and now this Asian Cup, I feel disappointed that I have not achieved anything for the national team. Although we were able to play at our own pace in the first half, we were overpowered by our opponents in the second half, even though most of us are used to playing stronger opponents in Europe. I don't know what made the difference, but it felt like we were completely overpowered by our opponents. Although I had a bad feeling about the way the game was going, I wish I had been more vocal about where they were making runs. We retreated our back line against a team that played long balls. They had the height advantage, but we also insisted on kicking the ball and couldn't win the second ball. I don't know what the difference was, but we deserved to lose.

MF/FW #20 KUBO Takefusa (Real Sociedad/Spain)
In the first half, we didn't feel like we were in danger at all, but after we conceded a couple of chances in the second half, they started to play long balls, which made things tricky. It would have been better if we had spent more time on the ball, but their game plan was very effective against us today. We had our own chances before that, so we need to do a better job of finishing them. We were hoping to take the game into extra time, so it was unfortunate to concede a penalty at the end. I wish we had played our football even when things were not going our way.

MF/FW #25 MAEDA Daizen (Celtic FC/Scotland)
It is disappointing that we lost. We knew they were going to initiate their attacks with long balls, but we just let them do what they wanted to do. I was told that their full-backs were going to press up, so I had to be careful of them when I pushed forward. Although I wasn't able to score goals, I felt I was able to provide cover to shut down their side attacks.

Amir GHALENOEI, Head Coach of IR Iran National Team
The Asian football community should be pleased with this match, and we should be proud of the performance of our players who gave their all for our fans. This match could be a turning point for Iranian football, including the U23 and U19 age groups. We have a lot of respect for Japan, who are a big team with a lot of players who play in the top European leagues. I would also like to congratulate them on their performance. In today's game, however, we started a little slow and made a few mistakes, but we gradually gained confidence and our high pressing prevented the three Japanese midfielders from doing their job, which I think helped us win the game.

YouTube(AFC):#AsianCup2023 | Quarter-final : Islamic Republic Of Iran 2 - 1 Japan

AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023

Tournament dates: Fri. 12 January - Sat. 10 February 2024

Group stage
1st Match: Sun. 14 January 14:30 ◯4-2 vs Vietnam National Team
2nd Match: Fri. 19 January 14:30 ●1-2 vs Iraq National Team
3rd Match: Wed. 24 January 14:30 ◯3-1 vs Indonesia National Team

Knockout Stage
Round of 16: Wed. 31 January 14:30 ◯3-1 vs Bahrain National Team
Quarterfinals: Sat. 3 February 14:30 ●1-2 vs IR Iran National Team
※Dates and times are listed in local time.

Tournament information

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