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【Match Report】U-22 Japan National Team lose to Belgium 2-3, finish Europe tour with a draw and a loss

28 March 2023

【Match Report】U-22 Japan National Team lose to Belgium 2-3, finish Europe tour with a draw and a loss

On Monday 27 March, the U-22 Japan National Team, who are on a tour in Europe, faced the U-22 Belgium National Team at Pinatar Arena in Murcia, Spain.

Following their 2-2 draw against Germany on Friday 24 March, the team started KOKUBO Leo Brian (SL Benfica) in goal, with KATO Hijiri (V-Varen Nagasaki), SUZUKI Kaito (Jubilo Iwata), NISHIO Ryuya (Cerezo Osaka), and NAKAMURA Takumi (Yokohama FC) forming the four-man defence line. KAWASAKI Sota (Kyoto Sanga FC) anchored the midfield with SUZUKI Yuito (RC Strasbourg) and FUJITA Joel Chima (Yokohama F. Marinos) positioned as the central midfielders. HIRAOKA Taiyo (Shonan Bellmare), KIMURA Yudai (Kyoto Sanga FC), and MATSUMURA Yuta (Kashima Antlers) were placed up top.

The match started with Belgium taking the initiative, as Japan’s 4-3-3 formation did not play out well against the opponents’ 3-4-2-1 formation. Belgium capitalised on the numerical advantages created through the mismatch of the two formations, as they scored goals in the fifth and 20th minutes to take an early two goal lead. In efforts to change the dynamics of the game, Japan sent UCHINO Takashi (Fortuna Dusseldorf) off the bench in the 32nd minute, but Belgium led 2-0 at the break.

Japan started the second half by bringing in KIMURA Seiji (FC Tokyo), SATO Kein (Meiji University), YAMAMOTO Rihito (Gamba Osaka) and HOSOYA Mao (Kashiwa Reysol) and tried to eliminate the mismatch by switching to a 3-4-2-1 formation. Belgium also made changes to their line-up, converting to a four-man defence. The man-to-man approach allowed Japan to become more stable in defence and create more chances upfront. In the 54th minute, Kimura Seiji flicked a corner kick delivered by Kato to setup the goal of Sato, followed Suzuki Yuito’s equaliser in the 64th minute. With momentum on their side, Japan continued to apply pressure upfront, but ended up conceding from their own mistake in the 86th minute, as Belgium won the match with a final score of 3-2.

Coach and Players' Comments

OIWA Go, Head Coach
When looking back at our game plan and the potential drawbacks, those drawbacks manifested themselves strongly in this match. It's great that we were able to score goals, but we needed to be clearer about how we wanted to play the game and how we wanted to use our time. We really need to reflect on what we have done and what we needed to do in the first half. We need to be on the same page in terms of what we are trying to accomplish as a team.

DF #5 KIMURA Seiji (FC Tokyo)
I've played on the left side of a back three formation for my club before, but last year I was primarily deployed to finish off games. I was continuously pondering what I should be doing and how I should position myself because I had never been required to carry the ball upfront or engage in offence like I did today. That was a little challenging for me because I'm not a lefty, but aside from the one mistake I made early in the second half, I believe I was able to perform my task.

MF #8 FUJITA Joel Chima (Yokohama F. Marinos)
Today we conceded from an early mistake and gave up two goals in the first half. After giving up the second goal, we began to play more passively, but I believe that by speaking out more, I was able to keep our team together and composed.

MF #18 SATO Kein (Meiji University)
By scoring a goal, I feel as though I was able to fulfil my responsibility, but it was a team effort. In the first half, our 4-3-3 system did not work effectively. I'm delighted I was able to give our team a boost in the second half since, as a substitute, I was aware that my task was to alter the game's dynamics. I still believe that I could have contributed more to the team's victory by playing more ferociously.

International Friendly Match

vs U-22 Germany National Team
Fri. 24 March 2023, 18:15 local time (Sat. 25 March, 2:15 Japan time)
Venue: PSD Bank Arena (Frankfurt, Germany)

vs U-22 Belgium National Team
Mon. 27 March 2023, 19:00 local time (Tue. 28 March, 2:00 Japan time)
Venue: Pinatar Arena (Murcia, Spain)

Match Information

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