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U-23 Japan National Team advance to knockout stage, topping Group B

17 January 2016

U-23 Japan National Team advance to knockout stage, topping Group B

U-23 Japan National Team had the 2nd match of the group stage against Thailand at Grand Hamad Stadium at 4:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. Japan time) on 16 January at the AFC U-23 Championship Qatar 2016 (Rio de Janeiro Olympics Asian Qualifiers Final Round).

Reshuffling six starters after the previous match, Japan went on an offensive surge early on. The first opening came in the 6th minute. YAJIMA Shinya rushing into the box volleyed a cross from TOYOKAWA Yuta on the left flank. ASANO Takuma's left-footed shot hit the left post in the 8th minute and Toyokawa's header was also deflected off the cross bar a minute later.

Japan kept taking the initiative before scoring the opening goal in the 27th minute. When ENDO Wataru sent the ball forward to SUZUKI Musashi, the Niigata boy ran through and beautifully netted with his right foot.

Japan started the second half just as concentrated as they were in the first half finishing 1-0. In the 49th minute, Japan rattled the opponents' defence through a challenge by ONAIWU Ado, who was subbed in for Suzuki, and HARAKAWA Riki broke through the left flank. Yajima met Harakawa's cross directed into the box to make it 2-0 with his header.

Despite extending their lead to two, Japan gave up a chance in the 54th minute. In the middle of a battle in front of their own goal, a foul was called and a penalty kick was awarded to the opponents. But the kick by the Thai player was hit off the bar and Japan managed to get away from the critical moment. In the 55th minute, an opponent's acute shot threatened Japan's goalmouth, but it was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper KUSHIBIKI Masatoshi.

As the time went on, Thailand's hard work rate decreased, but that was not the case with the Japanese squad. With a strong approach to the ball, Japanese halted Thai attacking initiation and effectively played on short counterattacks.

In the 71st minute, Japan coach TEGURAMORI sent on his second substitute of the match, KUBO Yuya for Asano. Kubo proved himself with a goal soon after that. In the 75th minute, IWANAMI Takuya delivered a through ball behind the defensive line after robbing the ball at a high position. Kubo ran through unmarked and fired a shot, which was first parried by the goalkeeper but rolled into the back of the net. Kubo also earned a penalty kick and netted home in the 84th minute for his team's fourth goal.

Japan continued to mount attacks even in the closing minutes. In added time, MINAMINO Takumi, who replaced Yajima in the 78th minute, threatened the goalkeeper with a left-foot blast. In the end, Japan beat Thailand 4-0 and extended the points to six.

The another match of Group B took place at 7:30 p.m. local time as DPR Korea and Saudi Arabia shared the spoils in a 3-3 draw. As a result, Japan secured the top spot of the group and clinched the spot in the knockout stage.

Match details

Coach and Players' Comments

TAGURAMORI Makoto, Coach
In the first half, I was prepared for Thailand coming to us with momentum. When finishing the first half 1-0 and thinking about how to take control and how to break through, I wanted to keep subbing new attackers one after another and wanted my players to get confidence by scoring more goals. Kubo Yuya scored two, and it happened.

In this match, we tried to prove ourselves and get into the tournament well as a team. And I replaced a lot of starters of the first match. With today's outcome, our team get more momentum, find variations and come out in fresh shape. We are ready to play three matches in the knockout stage, so I will play many players in next match, too. That’s because I want my players to tune-up their conditions in terms of their physical, mental and other conditions, and also I want to hold everyone accountable for winning through the knockout stage.

GK #1  KUSHIBIKI Masatoshi (Kashima Antlers)
As well as we scored four goals, it's big we kept a clean sheet. To aim at a higher level, defensemen always keep in mind to keep a clean sheet at the final qualifying round. The fact we could execute it gives us confidence for our future. And to me, keeping opponents scoreless in two straight matches certainly makes me confident.

In the first half, the opponents got momentum and we struggled to pick up our pace. Even so, we didn't allow a goal and then got an opening goal. After adding a few more goals, we were able to play with our pace. Trying to keep a clean sheet in the next match, we will get multiple goals in the run up to the knockout stage.

MF #3  ENDO Wataru (Urawa Reds)
As for the first goal, Suzuki Musashi called to me "behind" and I thought if I dropped the ball where he could control, it would be a chance. After the opening match, we talked to each other that the game will be easier if we can get the second and third goal. We passed around the ball in our favour and created chances. We scored the total four goals. That's the improvement from the first match. But in the second half, we gave up a penalty kick and had some sluggish stretches. What we need to improve is we committed an unnecessary foul in front of goal.

FW #9  SUZUKI Musashi (Albirex Niigata)
We had chances even before we scored the opening goal, but they hit the post or cross bar. I was determined that I would score the goal. Just before I scored the opening goal, I had an eye contact with Endo Wataru and told him to send the ball behind (the opposition's defenders). I was confident to go through if I could touch the ball before an opponent. Our objective is to go up to the top of Asia, so we are not going to lose it and play a game without counting on our ability too much. I will try to be greedy and get more goals as well.

FW #11  KUBO Yuya (Berner Sport Club Young Boys/Switzerland)
At my first goal, I wanted to ground the ball to beat the goalkeeper and my shot went up. I'm glad it went into the net. Speaking of my second goal, I wanted to shoot, but it ended up in a penalty kick. With the two goals, I will try to pick up momentum, and if I can go with the momentum as a striker, the team are also going to be better. We got a spot for the knockout stage, but it's not our goal. We will play out to improve the team in the following match as well.

JFA-TV (Japanese version only)


AFC U-23 Championship Qatar 2016
Wed. 13 January 1-0 Group Stage 1st Match vs U-23 DPR Korea
(@Grand Hamad Stadium)
Thu. 14 January AM Training
Fri. 15 January PM Training
Sat. 16 January 4-0 Group Stage 2nd Match vs U-23 Thailand
(@Grand Hamad Stadium)
Sun. 17 January AM Training
Mon. 18 January 17:45 Official training (@Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium)
Tue. 19 January 16:30 Group Stage 3rd Match vs U-23 Saudi Arabia
(@Suhaim Bin Hamad Stadium)
Wed. 20 January AM Training
Thu. 21 January TBC Official training (@tbd)
Fri. 22 January 16:30

Knock-out stage  Quarter-Finals (If Japan top the Group)
(@Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium)
Knock-out stage  Quarter-Finals (If Japan 2nd the Group)
(@Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium)
Sat. 23 January AM Training
Sun. 24 January PM Training
Mon. 25 January PM Training
Tue. 26 January 16:30

Knock-out stage  Semi-Finals (If Japan top the Group)
(@Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium)
Knock-out stage  Semi-Finals (If Japan 2nd the Group)
(@Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium)
Wed. 27 January AM Training
Thu. 28 January PM Training
Fri. 29 January 17:45 Knock-out stage  3rd/4th-Place Playoff
(@Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium)
Sat. 30 January 17:45 Knock-out stage  Final
(@Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium)

*Local Time

AFC U-23 Championship Qatar 2016 (Rio de Janeiro Olympics Asian Qualifiers Final)

Group Stage 2nd Match
Sat. 16 January - 22:30 (Japan Time)
Qatar/Grand Hamad Stadium
U-23 Japan National Team vs U-23 Thailand National Team
Live broadcasting across Japan by tv asahi Group from 22:20
More information

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