【Match Report】U-16 Japan National Team keep title hopes alive with massive win over Nigeria - International Dream Cup 2023 JAPAN
03 June 2023
On Friday 2 June, the U-16 Japan National Team played their second match of the International Dream Cup 2023 JAPAN against the U-16 Nigeria National Team at J-Village in Fukushima, where they won 6-1.
U-16 Japan National Team 6-1 (3-0, 3-1) U-16 Nigeria National Team
Due to the expected inclement weather, the kick-off time was moved up by one hour for the second match, taking into account the playing environment and the players' conditions. With tension in the air, the game moved quickly, as Nigeria scooped up the ball in front of the Japanese goal and fired a shot within 18 seconds of kick-off. Soon afterwards, Japan scored the opening goal in the second minute, when OISHI Shuto (Kagoshima Josei High School) converted a corner kick at the far side.
Because of how quickly the ball was moving on the slick pitch, both sides' attacks were brisk. Nigeria was awarded a penalty kick in the seventh minute, but Japanese goalkeeper OGAWA Hikaru (Sanfrecce Hiroshima Youth) made an incredible save to preserve their lead.
After some back-and-forth action between the two teams, Japan increased their lead when KUMASHIRO Keito (Roasso Kumamoto Youth) converted Oishi's pass in the 17th minute. To make it 3-0 for Japan at the break, Kumashiro scored another goal in the 42nd minute with HAMASAKI Kento (Vissel Kobe U-18) providing the assist.
With two substitutions made during the first half and two more at half-time, Nigeria showed their desire to score. In the 50th minute, the ball slipped behind the Japanese defence line, allowing Azuka ALATAN to send the ball into the net.
Japan did not falter and kept attacking even after giving up a goal. In the 66th minute, they won the ball high up the field with four men rushing towards the Nigerian goal. Although his initial shot was blocked by the goalkeeper, Hamasaki managed to convert the deflection to score the team’s fourth goal.
After adding two more goals in the closing minutes, Japan won the match 6-1, as they kept their title hopes alive ahead of their third and final match against the U-16 Netherlands National Team on Sunday 4 June.
In the other fixture played on this day, the Netherlands defeated the USA 3-0 to mark their second consecutive win of the competition.
Coach and Players' Comments
HIROYAMA Nozomi, Head Coach of U-16 Japan National Team
I told the players who were on the pitch at the end of the first match against the USA, including Kumashiro, who scored in the closing minutes, to approach this match as a continuation of that one. The ball was going back and forth, but it is a necessary experience to play such an intense game. There were some fine individual performances, such as the penalty save and Tanaka's goal-line clearance, which showed great toughness and resilience to keep the game flowing. Our final opponents, the Netherlands, are a well-organised team, but in the end it's about whether we can outplay them during the tough phases of the game. We're hoping that our players will perform better than their opponents on an individual level.
GK #12 OGAWA Hikaru (Sanfrecce Hiroshima Youth)
I'm not good at stopping penalty kicks, but I have a long reach, so I thought I could stop the ball going to the centre to some extent with my legs. Although we had a one-goal lead, there was a feeling that our opponents would gain momentum if we conceded the equaliser, so I am glad I was able to stop that spot kick. It is best if we don’t allow any opportunities for our opponents, but as a goalkeeper, I focused on communicating with my teammates while keeping my composure at all times. I feel that it is my job to keep the team on the same page.
DF #5 OKAWA Yugo (Kashima Antlers Youth)
The speed and long-reach of the Nigerian players were something I had heard about, but it was nothing like I have experienced in Japan before. Although we were able to defend well, it was regretful that we conceded a goal. As a centre half, it makes a world of difference if the team concedes one or not. We will be facing another tough opponent next, but we have played many tough opponents in France, so we want to enter the final match with confidence and finish this tour on a high note.
MF #7 HAMASAKI Kento (Vissel Kobe U-18)
After we lost our first match, I just focused on scoring goals that would help the team win the match. I regretted how little I was involved in our team’s offence in the first match, so I was determined to score goals today. I want to win the final match with a sense of responsibility and urgency as a member of the national team.
Tournament dates: Wed. 31 May - Sun. 4 June 2023
Participating teams: Japan/Netherlands/USA/Nigeria
Venue: [Free admission to all matches] J-Village Stadium (Fukushima)
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