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HOME > SAMURAI BLUE > KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2015 03/27 TOP > NEWS > New boss Halilhodzic finish first match with win over Tunisia as Okazaki, Honda score goals off bench


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New boss Halilhodzic finish first match with win over Tunisia as Okazaki, Honda score goals off bench

28 March 2015

New boss Halilhodzic finish first match with win over Tunisia as Okazaki, Honda score goals off bench

SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) defeated Tunisia National Team at the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2015 at Oita Stadium in Oita on Friday 27 March and celebrated the first match of the new head coach Vahid Halilhodzic with a victory. 

Japan’s starting line-up listed SAKAI Hiroki (Hannover 96), YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC), MAKINO Tomoaki (Urawa Reds) and FUJIHARU Hiroki (Gamba Osaka) from the right on the backline, as HASEBE Makoto (Eintracht Frankfurt) and YAMAGUCHI Hotaru (Cerezo Osaka) manned the two defensive midfielder positions. KIYOTAKE Hiroshi (Hannover 96) played in front of Hasebe and Yamaguchi, and NAGAI Kensuke (Nagoya Grampus), KAWAMATA Kengo (Nagoya Grampus) and MUTO Yoshinori (FC Tokyo) were put up front. GONDA Shuichi (FC Tokyo) took the goal keeper position.

Although the team had had training sessions in the camp since 23 March, the offence was stagnant especially in building up after getting the opponents’ ball, having seven players on the pitch who did not experience the AFC Asian Cup in this January. It was the first match of their national team career for Fujiharu and Kawamata, as Nagai played with Japan’s kit on for the first time in four years. Even so, Yamaguchi, who had been away from the team since the FIFA World Cup last summer, provided passes to open spaces and behind defenders to build up the offence.

In the 21st minute, with a feed from Yamaguchi, Muto penetrated into the box and fired a shot. Soon after, Kawamata’s shot off a corner kick hit the woodwork.

In the 32nd, after a throw-in on the right flank, Hasebe sent a ball to Kiyotake, who shot his own, but it was denied by the opposing goalkeeper.

Japan started the second half with the same line-up. In the 48th minute, Muto received Hasebe’s pass and cut into the box to launch a shot, but it was cleared by an opposing defender. Japan continued struggling to score a goal. Then, substitutes changed the game flow.

In the 60th minute, Japan’s attacking pace was accelerated when midfielder KAGAWA Shinji (Borussia Dortmund) and forward HONDA Keisuke came off the bench in place of Kiyotake and Nagai. Both players created chances by taking advantage of open space.

In the 67th minute, Kagawa threatened the opposing goal with his left-footed shot after receiving a cut-back from Fujiharu, who latched onto Yamaguchi’s through ball.In the 72nd minute, Halilhodzic sent on forwards USAMI Takashi (Gamba Osaka) and OKAZAKI Shinji (1.FSV Mainz 05) and Japan’s up front became more active. Kagawa fed the balls behind the defensive line for goal-scoring opportunities as their opening gaol came from such a pattern.

In the 78th minute, Kagawa received Okazaki’s pass and slotted a through ball to Honda on the left flank. After Honda rushed forward and provided a cross, Okazaki, running to the far post, headed home. Okazaki capped the 90th national team appearance as a forward.

Five minutes later, Kagawa sent Okazaki’s pass on goal. Although it was parried by the opposing goalkeeper, Honda put the loose ball into the net with his left foot after entering the box at the opposing side. Soon after that, midfielder KONNO Yasuyuki (Gamba Osaka) and UCHIDA Atsuto replaced Yamaguchi and SAKAI Hiroki. Japan kept taking the initiative.

In the 86th minute, Kagawa fired a shot from outside of the box. Two minutes later, Usami blasted Kagawa’s setup but the ball hit the inside of the right post to bounce back to the pitch, which induced sighs from 34,777 fans at the stadium.

Japan won the match 2-0 to celebrate their new start under Halilhodzic. The team will travel to Tokyo on 28 to meet Uzbekistan on Tuesday 31 at the JFL CHALLENGE CUP 2015 at Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo.

Head Coach and Player's Comments

Vahid Halilhodzic,  SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)Head Coach
I am very satisfied with this match. The players showed their aggressiveness and enthusiasm from the beginning, and created a good and competitive momentum. Our plays had good rhythm, changes of the rhythm, aggressiveness and quickness. It was a very good match. We scored two goals, but it was possible to score more, and although we had only three or four days of practice, we have made reasonable changes.

Our bench players played very well. Honda and Kagawa showed good quality that they have, and that made the quality of the match better. They showed their capability to change the course of a match when they are really into it. There are things that we should improve, too. Especially how we controlled the match after we got the ball was something I am not satisfied with. This is a very important win for us, and new beginning for Japan. The players tried to play the way I expected them to play, and I want them to keep doing it. In the next match again, I will give playing opportunities to many players to see how they play.

MF  HASEBE Makoto(Eintracht Frankfurt)
After the 10-minute mark into the second half, they started to show their fatigue. I think that’s because we made them tired. That led to this result. I think that means we played well throughout the 90 minutes, and all of us showed our will to win on the ball. There were some new players, so I tried to calm them down on the pitch by telling them what to do. I tried to let each of them show what he could do. Our head coach mentions winning very often, so it was good that we got a good result.

Georges Leekens, Tunisia National Team Head Coach
I would like to congratulate Japan and their head coach. Our benched made the difference. Because of the time difference between Tunisia and here, I was expecting that we would slow down in the second half, but it was just we had to pay the price. In the second half, Japan played faster and also moved the ball faster with Honda on the pitch, but that’s the reason why great players can make a difference. We didn’t have our captain Yassine Chikhaoui because of an injury during the warm-up, and it showed in our mentality. But I am not dissatisfied with this result. The referees were good and we were able to test some players on our roster.

Click here for photo gallery


  • HONDA's Interview


Mon. 23 March PM Training
Tue. 24 March PM Training
Wed. 25 March PM Training
Thu. 26 March PM Official practice
Fri. 27 March2-0KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2015  v Tunisia National Team (Oita Stadiuam)
Sat. 28 March AM Training
Sun. 29 March AM/PM Training
Mon. 30 March AM/PM Official practice
Tue. 31 March19:25JAL CHALLENGE CUP 2015     v  Uzbekistan National Team (Tokyo Stadium)


Tue. 31 March 2015
SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)  v  Uzbekistan National Team
Tokyo Stadium, Kickoff 19:25/Open 16:25
TV Coverage: National live broadcasting on NTV Group

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