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HOME > SAMURAI BLUE > ASIAN QUALIFIERS - ROAD TO RUSSIA [9/5] TOP > NEWS > SAMURAI BLUE beat Australia and clinch 2018 World Cup berth with goals from Asano and Ideguchi


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SAMURAI BLUE beat Australia and clinch 2018 World Cup berth with goals from Asano and Ideguchi

01 September 2017

SAMURAI BLUE beat Australia and clinch 2018 World Cup berth with goals from Asano and Ideguchi

SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) clinched their sixth straight World Cup berth and their sixth overall appearance with a 2-0 win over Australia on Thursday 31 August in the FIFA World Cup Russia Asian Qualifiers Final Round from goals by forward ASANO Takuma (VfB Stuttgart) and midfielder IDEGUCHI Yosuke (Gamba Osaka).

With a victory over Australia, Japan have extended their points to 20 with an overall record of 6 wins, 1 loss and 2 draws. Moving four points clear from second-placed Saudi Arabia and third-placed Australia, the Japanese squad have secured a top place in Group B regardless of the result of the last qualifier match against Saudi Arabia in Jeddah on Tuesday 5 September.

In the press conference which was held a day prior to the match, coach Vahid HALILHODZIC has suggested that there might be a change in starting XI by commenting, 'We will be starting with players that our opponents are not aware of.' In a match that a win would guarantee a spot in the World Cup, Samurai coach has employed a 4-3-3 formation and placed three players in midfield with HASEBE Makoto (Eintracht Frankfurt) in an anchor position and Ideguchi and YAMAGUCHI Hotaru (Cerezo Osaka) as wide midfielders. Additionally, the Bosnian manager has started OSAKO Yuya (1.FC Koeln) as centre forward and wingers Asano to the right and INUI Takashi (SD Eibar) to the left on attacks.

From the beginning of the match, Japan were looking to attack from quick transitions after robbing the ball by putting strong pressure on the opponents in midfield and shutting down their attacking plays. While defender SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille) was looking for opportunities to attack from the right side on the overlap, Inui and Osako threatened the Australian goal from the edge of the box in the 14th and 23rd minutes. Another near attempt came after 35 minutes when a left cross from by defender NAGATOMO Yuto (FC Internazionale Milano) was met by Asano dashing to the front of the goal, but his shot could not find the target.

Australia had deployed a back-three after gaining confidence in the defensive system at the FIFA Confederations Cup and looked for their chances to score from midfielder Mathew LECKIE and forward James TROISI orchestrating attacks from the right side. Then, in the 32nd minute, forward Robbie KRUSE dashed into the box and tried to latch onto a through ball from the right flank, but KAWASHIMA Eiji (Football Club de Metz) got to the ball first and secured it safely. After 38 minutes, Leckie came close to opening the scoring for the Socceroos, but his attempt hit the right post.

It was the 41st minute when the Samurai warriors finally broke the deadlock. After an exchange of pass with Inui, Nagatomo delivered a perfect cross for Asano. As the Stuttgart striker later commented, ‘I was looking for it’, he ran past the back-three to find himself with only a keeper to beat and netted a left-footer with composure to open the scoring for the hosts.

Even after this goal, Japan continued to threaten the opponents with menacing attacks. In the 44th minute, Osaka came close to scoring the second for his side after firing a shot off a right cross. Furthermore, additional chance was created from a counter-attack, where Inui struck at goal after 56 minutes.

In an effort to secure a win, HARAGUCHI Genki (Hertha BSC Berlin), a scorer of a goal in the away encounter against Australia last October, was subbed in for Inui in the 76th minute. Then a minute later, Haraguchi delivered a fine cross from the left side to Ideguchi, but his attempt was denied by the opposing defender who blocked right in front of the goal line.

The game-deciding moment came for the Samurai warriors in the 82nd minute. Haruguchi not only intercepted the ball in midfield but also kept possession using his strong physicality to find Ideguchi rushing down the left flank. Then, the 21-year old Gamba midfielder, who also displayed his young talent in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last year, cut inside to curl in a stunning shot directed to the top-right corner and extended the lead by scoring his maiden goal in a crucial moment of the match for the top national team.

Unable to find the attacking spark in the second half, Australia brought on forward Tomi JURIC and forward Tim CAHILL in the 61st and 70th minutes. Sooceroos started to show better vertical movements in their attacks, but the Japanese squad made the necessary adjustments in defence and dealt with these changes well. After 86 minutes, midfielder Brad SMITH attempted to score from the right side off a cross ball by Juric, but Sakai blocked the shot by getting in the line of the shot.

Japan protected the two-goal lead until the end of the match and secured a 2-0 victory over Australia to book a place in the World Cup Russia.

Match Report

In the post-game ceremony, captain Hasebe spoke in front of the crowd of 59,492 fans and expressed his appreciation for their support, ‘Thank you very much for all of your support. Your voices and cheers are giving us the power to compete. Please continue to send us your support for the team.’ Coach Halilhodzic added in Japanese, ‘Minasan, Arigatoh-gozaimashita! (Thank you very much everyone!)’. Then, the crowd reacted with loud cheers, and the Bosnian manager received a celebratory water shower from his players and showed an expression of satisfaction from accomplishing a major task for his team.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup will be held from 14 June to 15 July at 12 different venues in 11 cities across Russia. The draw of the group stage is scheduled to take place on 1 December in Moscow.

Coaches' and Players' Comments

Vahid HALILHODZIC, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
I would like to praise my team and, at the same time, I feel proud of the performance put forth by my players tonight. We faced many adversities but showed a heroic display of character against formidable opponents today. This match can be used as a benchmark for future competitions. I have been constantly thinking about trusting and using the young players and they have proven themselves in the match today. I believe this is a wonderful thing for the football in Japan as well. Today’s win is dedicated to all the Japanese people. Thank you very much for supporting our players.

DF #19 SAKAI Hiroki(Olympique de Marseille)
Our players upfront worked hard and put a lot of pressure on our opponents. This allowed our defenders to make a good prediction of what they were attempting to do. Furthermore, we were able to stay composed and deal with their attacks by focusing on not giving their two key midfielders free space at all times as well.

MF #2 IDEGUCHI Yosuke(Gamba Osaka)
I was determined to return the favour to my coach for giving me a chance to start in an important match today. I believe it was this determination that resulted in my goal. We still have a long time before the World Cup starts. I shall not be satisfied, but continue to improve myself to be reselected to the national team.

MF #17 HASEBE Makoto(Eintracht Frankfurt)
It was quite a journey of two years with many ups and downs before we finally qualified for the World Cup. I am very happy with the result we achieved as a team. It was a very difficult match, but we stayed patient and scored at crucial moments in the game. It wasn’t what one might consider a ‘beautiful game’, but we still could refine our strategy in the limited time we had to compete in today’s match and get the result we were hoping for. We are seeing an increasing number of young players join the national team and also are having the internal competition necessary to revitalise the team. Making appearances in the qualifiers does not guarantee a spot in the World Cup squad. A new competition has already begun and I need to keep up my hard work as well.

Ange POSTECOGLOU, Coach of Australia National Team
I am disappointed that we could not get the result that we were hoping for. We were looking to control the midfield. However, we were not able to keep possession effectively and were forced to deal with their quick transitions when we gave away the ball as well. We created two goal-scoring chances towards the end of the match, but failed to capitalise on either of them. I would like to congratulate Japan for winning and qualifying for the World Cup.

TASHIMA Kohzo, President of Japan Football Association
It was an exemplary way of winning the match and earning a place in the World Cup. I have no other words than ‘thank you’ to say to our coach. We cannot revitalise our national team without fostering young players like Ideguchi who scored a goal today. I have realised once again the importance of nurturing future prospects as well.


Sun. 27 August PM Training 
Mon. 28 August PM Training *closed‐door
Tue. 29 August PM Training *closed‐door
Wed. 30 August PM Official Conference, Official Training *closed‐door
Thu. 31 August 2-0 ASIAN QUALIFIERS (Road to Russia)
vs Australia National Team
(Saitama Stadium 2002)
Fri. 1 September AM Training 
Sat. 2 September PM Training 
Sun. 3 September PM Training *closed‐door
Mon. 4 September TBC Official Conference, Official Training *closed‐door
Tue. 5 September 20:30 ASIAN QUALIFIERS (Road to Russia)
vs Saudi Arabia National Team
(King Abdullah Sports City)

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


2017-8-31 (Thu.) 19:35 kick off (estimated time)
SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) vs Australia National Team
Saitama/Saitama Stadium 2002
Live on TV Asahi group and NHK-BS1 at 6:30 p.m.

More Information

2017-9-5 (Thu.) 20:30 kick off (estimated time)
[JST 26:30 kick off (estimated time)]
Saudi Arabia National Team vs SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
Saudi Arabia/King Abdullah Sports City
Live on TV Asahi group and NHK-BS1

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