2nd half surge put SAMURAI BLUE to 3-0 win over Syria, top of Group E in World Cup Asian Qualifiers Round 2
09 October 2015
SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) faced Syria on 8 October in Muscat, Oman, in their fourth match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Asian Qualifiers Round 2. The Halilhodzic side grabbed a 3-0 victory with three second-half goals including Leicester City forward OKAZAKI Shinji's finish to top Group E.
Japan replaced two starters from the last match against Afghanistan in September as they put SAKAI Gotoku (Hamburger SV) at the right back and MAKINO Tomoaki (Urawa Reds) at the central defence position. On the offensive side, Halilhodzic played Okazaki as a striker and lined up HONDA Keisuke (AC Milan), KAGAWA Shinji (Borussia Dortmund) and HARAGUCHI Genki (Hertha BSC Berlin) behind him.
However, Syria put intense pressure on Japan early on, while Japan struggled to pick up their rhythm and made a string of mistakes in the hot and humid climate with nearly 35 degrees of temperature as well as with the unusual pitch condition.
Even so, Haraguchi and Okazaki showed their attacking attempts, taking a shot through a cross from sides. In the 26th minute, Haraguchi and Honda made their own effort through a free kick, but they did not went on goal, partly due to meeting steady defence by the opponents. In the 41st minute, defender YOSHIDA Maya met a corner kick with his header, but it went over the cross bar.
The Syria side grabbed the ball with swift moves and directly fed it to up front as Omar KHARBIN and Mahmoud ALMAWAS tried to run through the heart of defence toward goal. And then, Syria’s midfielder Abdulrazak AL HUSEIN scared Japanese in the 35th minute and Kharbin tried for an opening goal through a long ball side to side in the 41st minute.
Yet in the second half, Japan improved their combination by adjusting distances between players so that they could create more chances in front of goal. And in the 55th minute, the deadlock was broken.
Okazaki responded to Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder HASEBE Makoto's long ball and was brought down in the box for a penalty. Honda opened the scoring with a slick kick, delaying the timing of his kicking with the goalkeeper's move. It was the first goal Syria gave up in the second round of the qualifiers.
Japan activated the left side in the 66th minute by subbing on forward USAMI Takashi (Gamba Osaka) for Haraguchi. In the 70th minute, their second goal of the day also came through a left side attack, when Kagawa cut in deeply and sent a cut-back to Okazaki, who rushed in front of goal and met first time.
Japan's offensive surge continued as Usami penetrated from the left flank in the 75th minute and Honda also threatened the opponents after receiving a pass from the left flank three minutes later. In the 88th minute, Usami scored his team's third goal with his right foot from Honda's delivery on the left flank.
Despite allowing a string of goals and running out of steam a bit, Syria did not show any sign of giving the game up. Substitute Reja RAFE fired a shot in the 82nd minute and Osmar OSAMA unleashed a direct free kick in the 84th minute, but both efforts were denied by NISHIKAWA Shusaku (Urawa Reds) with acute reaction.
As a result of the win, Japan added points up to 10 with three wins and one tie, topping the group in place of Syria. Syria moved down to second place, having nine points with three wins and one loss. Singapore stand in third place with seven points (2-1-1) after a 1-0 victory over Afghanistan, followed by Afghanistan in fourth with three points and Cambodia in fifth with no points.
Coach and Players' Comments
Vahid HALILHODZIC, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
I think it was a logical win, but the first half wasn’t very satisfying. We made easy passing mistakes, didn’t attack behind the opposing defenders and passed it to each other’s feet too much. During the half time I adjusted the movement of the midfield, and I also told Okazaki, Kagawa, Honda and Haraguchi to play more closely to each other. Then we were able to control the match better in the second half.
We were able to play with fewer touches and create more scoring opportunities. We could earn a penalty for the first time, too. It was disappointing that we couldn’t score a goal when we beautifully broke through the defence from the left flank once, but that will be the play that summarizes our identity.
Usami, Muto and Kiyotake got into the match well and they brought the speed we expected. Usami created many chances, too. Our players seemed to feel pressure, but our goal of defeating the most difficult opponents in the group has been achieved. Our team can get better even more, so we want to keep winning.
FW HONDA Keisuke (AC Milan)
You can say that they were tired in the second half, but we also changed our game plan. In the first half, we played being too far from each other. So we kept the distance between both flanks more compact, and Haraguchi and I got closer to the middle. That increased the targets of the vertical passes. We can play more collectively when we play in the middle. If we can make that change during the first half, we can be a better team. We didn’t expect Syria would be so offensive in the first half. They were aggressive. But that made them tired down the road.
FW OKAZAKI Shinji (Leicester City Football Club)
(Speaking of the penalty he earned) The opposing defender was coming up high, so I was looking to attack behind him. I think my attacking mentality led to a good result. A bigger takeaway of the match is that I should have scored one more goal. But at least fulfilling the job is an important thing as a forward, so I can move on to the next match with a good momentum because I earned a penalty and scored the second goal.
MF KAGAWA Shinji (Borussia Dortmund)
It was good that we could do a good job in the match that we had to win. The first half was difficult for us, but we didn’t panic even when we couldn’t score goals. We could control the match well throughout the 90 minutes. It was good that we scored three goals and closed it out in the second half. We could attack the space behind their defenders well and earned a penalty.
That one goal gave us a momentum. We also could score the second goal when we needed to. (Speaking of the assist he made) Okazaki came in very nicely right at the moment when I could pass by the defender.
Fajer EBRAHIM, Coach (Syria National Team)
I would like to congratulate Japan. It was a good match for Japan, but there was also us missing two crucial opportunities in the first half, which was luck for them. We conceded goals in the second half through the mistakes of our defenders. I don’t say they were silly mistakes, but they were easy mistakes. But this is football, too. My players did very well and I am satisfied with their performance. I believe we still have a chance to move on. We will correct our defence for upcoming matches.
|Mon. 5 October
|Tue. 6 October
|Wed. 7 October
|Official Conference (Seeb Stadium)
Official Training (Seeb Stadium)
|Thu. 8 October
|2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Asian Qualifiers Round 2
AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Preliminary Joint Qualification
vs Syria National Team (Seeb Stadium)
|Fri. 9 October
|Sat. 10 October
|Sun. 11 October
|Mon. 12 October
|Official Conference (Azadi stadium)
Official Training (Azadi stadium)
|Tue. 13 October
|International Friendly Match
vs Iran National Team (Azadi stadium)
International Friendly Match
10-13 (Tue.) - kick off at 22:30 ＜Japan Time＞ (subject to change)
Iran National Team vs SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
Announcement from Iran Embassy of Japan – To people who come for the match against Iran – (Japanese version only)
- National Teams 2015/10/08 Halilhodzic: We have to show who we really are – Press conference ahead of match against Syria at World Cup Asian Qualifiers Round 2
- National Teams 2015/10/06 SAMURAI BLUE arrive in Muscat, start training
- National Teams 2015/10/01 SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) squad, schedule - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Preliminary Joint Qualification vs. Syria (10/8@Muscat), International Friendly Match vs. Iran (10/13@Tehran)
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