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Light conditioning day for SAMURAI BLUE

26 March 2016

Light conditioning day for SAMURAI BLUE

One day after their match against Afghanistan in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers Round 2, SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) had a conditioning workout session in Saitama in preparation for the last match in the current round against Syria on 29th at Saitama Stadium. Also it has been determined that Japan now advance to the final qualifying round with one more match remaining. 

Feeling the spring sunshine as well as still-cold north wind, the 11 starters of the 5-0 win against Afghanistan including forward OKAZAKI Shinji (Leicester City Football Club) spent time for recovery regimen such as running and stretching. 

Meanwhile, the players who did not play in the previous match including forward HONDA Keisuke (AC Milan) and those who came off the bench such as midfielder KAGAWA Shinji (Borussia Dortmund) took on more intense training where they worked on 5-on-5 scrimmage and shooting drills involving cross balls with coach Vahid HALILHODZIC.

To move on to the final round, teams need to either be the best team in their respective group of the current round or finish as one of the top four second-placed teams. Within a few hours after Japan finished the Afghanistan match, other second round matches scheduled on the same day in all over Asia finished as well. With all the results counted, Japan, now with six wins, no losses, two draws and 19 total points, were decided to finish at least higher than the fourth best second-placed team and consequently be given the spot in the final round, even though they lose to Syria on 29th. 

If Japan draw to or win against Syria, who follow Japan with only one point margin, they will finish the ongoing second round atop in their group. 

Defender NAGATOMO Yuto (FC Internazionale Milano) talks about the importance of the way how Japan win against Syria considering the next round of qualifiers. “Syria are a very good team. We may face them again in the final round. If we let them play a good match against us now, they will gain confidence. We have to overwhelm them with a big win that makes them think that they don’t want to play Japan.”

Saudi Arabia and Thailand also clinched their own spot in the next round, while Qatar and Korea Republic had already won their place.

Asia overall has 4.5 spots in the 2018 World Cup Russia. The final qualifying round to kick off in September will have two groups of six countries where they play both home and away matches against each other and the top two teams in each group will receive automatic advancement. The third-placed teams will go head to head to determine which side go on to the inter-continental playoff to play against the fourth best team in the North and Central America and Caribbean region.

In the Afghanistan match, Japan employed a new formation. Defender SAKAI Hiroki (Hannover 96 says of his expectation ahead, “now we are trying to extend the width of our play style. We are being able to understand and execute the football our coach instructs. From now on, opponents will be much better and better, so it’s good if we are able to play differently according to the opponents at the moment.”

The final round’s draw will be held on 12 April. 

Players' Comments

MF  KASHIWAGI Yosuke (Urawa Reds)
It was good that we could advance out of the second round, as I was personally able to be involved in scoring. I was playing a new position, and my play wasn’t so bad. But I am not satisfied yet. I feel strongly that I could have done more. I think whatever position given to me I have to show more of what I can do. Regardless of the fact that I wasn’t playing at a natural position, there wasn’t a situation where I was able to feed critical passes. So I want to change that. The transition between plays was good, I think.

DF  SAKAI Hiroki (Hannover 96)
As a defender, it was good that we didn’t allow any goal. Also as a team, it was good that we scored as many as five goals. (Speaking of the own goal) I am satisfied with the process with which we got to that moment. Yesterday we tried out a different formation and in the first half there were some moments when things didn’t go so well. But we talked and didn’t panic. As our attacking patterns, we could use both inside and outside and also take advantage of our height in the end. From now on, opponents will be much better and better, so it’s good if we are able to play differently according to the opponents at the moment. Now we are trying to extend the width of our play style. It’s certainly good that we can really do that.

MF  YAMAGUCHI Hotaru (Hannover 96)
We clinched the final qualifiers spot, but it still makes a difference whether we as a team finish this round with first place or second place. Also we want to finish this round with a win, rather than having a loss at the end. That will make a difference as well. In the last match against Syria, the distance between each of us was rather too long for us to move the ball effectively. In the second half, we regrouped ourselves and were able to score, so this time we want to play that way from the start. 

FW  OKAZAKI Shinji (Leicester City Football Club)
At Leicester City, I always try to face forward and take a good care of first touches, too, and the same thing just worked out in the goal I scored against Afghanistan. Defence needs to have discipline, but offence has more variety and more room for our instincts. Especially in Asia, many teams sit back and play defensively, so we have to push the tempo ourselves. When you play against difficult opponents, you defend and go for counter-attacks, so there is not much time for thinking. In those cases, you have to be on the same page with your teammates and the rest is to play as you feel. The Syria match will be my 100th match, if I get to play. But still I play it just as it is my first national team match. Out of those 100 matches, there have been more matches that I wasn’t really satisfied with. That’s why I have kept playing this far. I still want to keep playing and keep scoring goals. 

JFA-TV (Japanese version only)

  • Interview - KASHIWAGI Yosuke (Urawa Reds)

  • Interview - OKAZAKI Shinji (Leicester City Football Club/England)

  • Interview - NAGATOMO Yuto (FC Internazionale Milano/Italy)


Mon. 21 March PM Training
Tue. 22 March PM Training
Wed. 23 March tbc Official Conference
Official Training
Thu. 24 March 5-0 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Asian Qualifiers Round 2
AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Preliminary Joint Qualification
vs Afghanistan National Team (Saitama Stadium 2002)
More information
Fri. 25 March AM Training
Sat. 26 March PM Training
Sun. 27 March PM Training
Mon. 28 March tbc Official Conference
Official Training
Tue. 29 March 19:30 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Asian Qualifiers Round 2
AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Preliminary Joint Qualification
vs Syria National Team (Saitama Stadium 2002)
More information

*The schedule is subject to change due to the team condition, the weather, etc.

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Asian Qualifiers Round 2 AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Preliminary Joint Qualification

SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) vs Syria National Team
2016-3-29 (Tue.) - 19:30 (subject to change) 
Saitama/Saitama Stadium 2002
Live broadcasting across Japan by tv asahi/NHK-BS1
More information

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