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“The players showed us a new era” Interview with SAMURAI BLUE’s Head Coach MORIYASU Hajime

30 December 2022

“The players showed us a new era” Interview with SAMURAI BLUE’s Head Coach MORIYASU Hajime

Here we interviewed Head Coach MORIYASU Hajime, who led SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) to their second consecutive round of 16 appearance at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, about the competition and what the future holds.

――What are your thoughts after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™?

MORIYASU We received a lot of support from the general public, fans, and supporters throughout the tournament, and we were truly able to fight as one nation. Your support gave us great energy and we went into the tournament determined to demonstrate the value of Japanese football to the world. We would be delighted if we were able to bring joy and vitality to everyone through the activities of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team). Although we were unable to break the barrier of the top 16, I believe the players have shown us a new era.

――Have you managed to turn Doha into a “land of joy?”

MORIYASU Together with the people of Japan, we were able to give it our all, which allowed us to beat two former World Cup champions, Germany and Spain. Croatia is also a world powerhouse, ranked 12th in the FIFA rankings (as of 6 October). Through the competition against the world's best of the best, the players showed us a great scenery. We still have a lot to learn from the world, but instead of just looking up, we need to catch up, and I think the players have made us become more serious about overtaking the world.

――What is it like to be the Head Coach of the SAMURAI BLUE?

MORIYASU Being the head coach of a national team is often described as a “crazy job,” but for me, it is a “happy job.” Of course there were times when I felt pressure, but I was able to work without being stressed. It is truly a blessing to be able to do what I like and enjoy.

――Team building for the national team and for the club is a different thing. What difficulties did you face in building the Japan National Team?

MORIYASU The biggest thing was the time constraint. When we were preparing for the final round of the World Cup qualifiers, we weren't even able to practice with the whole squad two days before the match. Players from foreign clubs arrive at the team hotel at different timings, so we would only get to practice together once before the match. It is not uncommon to see players in different fitness level, too. The players work closely with their clubs to adjust to their style of football, and we have to keep each of these players on the same page to display the style of the SAMURAI BLUE. So, in that sense, it was difficult to get the players to switch their mentality from the club to the national team. Due to time constraints, we had to divide the workload between the coaching staff to instil the tactical concepts to the players, while I was in charge of the overall management as the head coach. I believe that the cooperation of the coaching staff made it possible for us to build the team.

――The day after the Croatia match, you mentioned that “if possible, I would like to go to Europe to gain more insight.”

MORIYASU I want to see with my own eyes how the coaches work with the players in Europe, especially since European football is at the forefront in terms of football tactics, and I think I can learn a lot by watching the training sessions. I want to know what it means to live and play football in a country outside of Japan and in a different culture. I was hoping to gain more insight on the environment in which the players are playing abroad and be able to talk with them on mutual terms.

――Finally, what do you think is needed for the SAMURAI BLUE to reach the next stage?

MORIYASU Each player must raise their individual level. This is a given. The day after the Croatia match, I told the players that in order to strengthen the SAMURAI BLUE, we need to see more Japanese players playing for teams that are in contention to win the UEFA Champions League. More specifically, we need to be able to avoid the pressure after winning the ball, and to possess the ball while fighting off the pressure. Defensively, we need to actively challenge the ball like the way we did against Germany in the second half. We can only get better by pursuing higher levels, while continuing to focus on what we have built up so far.

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