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HOME > SAMURAI BLUE > ASIAN QUALIFIERS - ROAD TO RUSSIA [6/13] TOP > NEWS > SAMURAI BLUE leave for game against Iraq after final adjustments in morning


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SAMURAI BLUE leave for game against Iraq after final adjustments in morning

09 June 2017

SAMURAI BLUE leave for game against Iraq after final adjustments in morning

SAMURAI BLUE (the Japan National Team) held a practice session in Tokyo in the morning on Thursday 8 June, the day after the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017 match against Syria. Then the team flew to Tehran in the evening, where they will play the 2018 FIFA World Cup final Asian Qualifiers against Iraq on 13 June. 

Under a blue sky, the team was divided into two groups – the players, who had started the game against Syria and drew 1-1, and the rest of the team – to hold separate practice sessions.

The former group started with running and stretching to relax their bodies, while the latter went through rapid changes and pressing in a five-on-five, followed by a mini game with goalkeepers on a smaller pitch. The team practiced reacting to crosses to take shots. The coach Vahid HALILHODZIC played balls into the practice and instructed the players using hand gestures. The players carefully did some stretches to finish the one-and-a-half-hour practice session. 

The midfielder YAMAGUCHI Hotaru (Cerezo Osaka), who had picked up an injury on his right shin during the game the day before, the defender SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille) with a bad knee, and the defender YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC), who had expressed some lower back discomfort, stayed at a hotel to take things easy. The midfielder KAGAWA Shinji (Borussia Dortmund), who had been replaced due to an injury he picked up in the match, left the team after breakfast, while USAMI Takashi (FC Augsburg), who had been called only for the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP, left after the practice session. As a result, 24 players will be ready for the game against Iraq.

USAMI is usually based abroad and joined the team at the training camp. He commented: ‘I’m glad to play for the national team and to have experienced tough training sessions.’

The eighth game in the final qualifiers against Iraq will be held in Tehran, Iran, due to Iraq’s domestic instability. 

Japan are currently in the lead in Group B in the final qualifying round, followed by Saudi Arabia, who have earned the same number of points, in second place on goal difference. The team in first and second will automatically book a ticket. The team in third place will be able to grab a spot in the championship through a play-off. Australia are currently sitting in third place with three points behind and Iraq in fifth with four points. 

Since there will be only three more games left in the final qualifiers, Japan, who aim to book a place in their sixth overall and sixth consecutive World Cup, are eager to beat Iraq on 13 June.

Although terrorist attacks at the Houses of Parliament and the Mausoleum of Khomeini in Tehran were reported in the evening on Wednesday 7 June, the staff, who were already there, contacted the Japanese Embassy and confirmed their safety. As planned, the team took off in the evening on Thursday 8 June.

Players' Comments

MF IDEGUCHI Yosuke (Gamba Osaka)
I am not satisfied with yesterday’s performance. I’d like to practice harder, so that I can contribute to the team more both in attack and defence. Since I’m still trying to understand fully our tactics, I want to be able to perform on the pitch as I am requested. I know every game in the World Cup qualifiers is very tough, and the coming one will be no different. However, I’d like to perform well to grab a good result.

DF NAGATOMO Yuto (FC Internazionale Milano)
Of course, I’m frustrated that we couldn’t beat Syria. However, KAGAWA’s injury was most painful for the team. Yesterday’s match meant a lot to us, which helped us to get ourselves in good condition in preparation for winning the game against Iraq on 13 June. I found some tasks – to lose markers, even when the opponent still has their stamina, and to coordinate with my teammates to get through the opponent. In the first half, we tended to let the opponent, who was blatantly aiming to, steal the ball to counter attack. We must avoid the same situation in the match against Iraq. In the second half, Japan managed to display our playing style under less pressure from the opponent. Similar things happen in every match, and we must work on it.

GK NAKAMURA Kosuke (Kashiwa Reysol)
I wish we had won yesterday’s match, since winning is one of the most important things for the national team. Having said that, the next game against Iraq is essential. So I’d like to learn my lessons for the next one. I believe that I’ve been gradually improving myself after joining the team. The further we’ve come, the more I want to perform on the pitch. I’d like to make progress one step at a time. I’d like to contribute to the team’s victory against Iraq, because that’s what we need.

FW ASANO Takuma (VfB Stuttgart)
Although we are having a difficult time as a team with injuries, all of us are staying positive. We attended today’s practice session, practicing hard to get good results. After playing on the pitch for a while yesterday, I realised that I needed to try harder. I expected that Honda might play at wing half. I find it difficult to play on the right, but I’d like to improve my tasks through games.


Sun. 28 May PM Training
Mon. 29 May AM/PM Training
Tue. 30 May AM/PM Training
Wed. 31 May AM/PM Training
Thu. 1 June AM/PM Training
Fri. 2 June AM/PM Training
Sat. 3 June AM/PM Training
Sun. 4 June AM Training
Mon. 5 June PM Training *
Tue. 6 June 17:00
Official Conference (Tokyo Stadium)
Official Training (Tokyo Stadium)*
Wed. 7 June 1-1 KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017
vs Syria National Team (Tokyo Stadium)
Thu. 8 June AM Training
Fri. 9 June PM Training
Sat. 10 June PM Training *
Sun. 11 June PM Training *
Mon. 12 June TBC Official Conference
Official Training (PAS Stadium) *
Tue. 13 June 17:00 ASIAN QUALIFIERS
vs Iraq National Team (PAS Stadium)

*Local Time
*The schedule is subject to change due to the team condition, the weather, etc.
*Open to the media for the first 15min.


2017-6-13 (Tue.) 16:55 kick off (estimated time)
[Japan Time: 2017-6-13 (Tue.) 21:25 kick off (estimated time)]
Iraq National Team vs SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
Iran / PAS Stadium

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