【Match Report】SAMURAI BLUE win over Germany 4-1 in an international friendly match
10 September 2023
On Saturday, 9 September, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) defeated the Germany National Team 4-1 in an international friendly match held at Wolfsburg, Germany, marking their second straight win over the European powerhouse following their 2-1 victory in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ group stage.
ITO Junya (Stade de Reims) scored the opening goal for Japan before assisting the goal of UEDA Ayase (Feyenoord). Second half substitutes, KUBO Takefusa (Real Sociedad), ASANO Takuma (VfL Bochum), and TANAKA Ao (Fortuna Dusseldorf) combined to score two more goals late in the match, with Kubo providing the assist on both occasions.
For this match, Head Coach MORIYASU Hajime started with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with OSAKO Keisuke (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) in goal. The two centre halves, TOMIYASU Takehiro (Arsenal) and ITAKURA Kou (Borussia MG), returned to the lineup since the World Cup, while ITO Hiroki (VfB Stuttgart) and SUGAWARA Yukinari (AZ Alkmaar) started as the two fullbacks. MORITA Hidemasa (Sporting CP) and ENDO Wataru (Liverpool FC) anchored the midfield with Ito, KAMADA Daichi (SS Lazio), and MITOMA Kaoru (Brighton & Hove Albion FC) placed beneath the lone striker Ueda.
In last year's World Cup, Japan's 0-1 deficit in the first half was reversed by a tactical change in the second half that allowed them to generate opportunities from rapid counterattacks. However, in this rematch, Japan showed much more aggression from the first half, winning more possession in the midfield to take the initiative.
Japan scored the opening goal in the 12th minute when the ball was connected through Tomiyasu, Kamada, and Sugawara, before the fullback carried the ball down the line and delivered a sharp cross towards the centre to setup the goal of Ito, who superbly redirected the ball into the net.
Germany responded back in the 19th minute, when Florian WIRTZ delivered the final pass into the Japanese penalty area, allowing Leroy SANE to tuck the ball into the far side with his left foot.
Despite conceding the equaliser, Japan continued to showcase quick transitions to create chances. In the 22nd minute, the cross delivered by Sugawara was redirected by Ito, who picked out Ueda in front of the goal, as the striker quickly reacted with his left foot to convert the opportunity.
In efforts to level the score, Germany collected the ball towards the right side where Sane awaited. In the 30th minute, Sane delivered a pass to setup the shot of Wirtz, before delivering another great cross in the 34th minute, this time targeting Ilkay GUNDOGAN and Kai HAVERTZ at the centre, but the home side was unable to take advantage of either opportunity.
In the 41st minute, Ueda intercepted the ball near the halfway line and carried the ball all the way into the box, but his shot was denied by German goalkeeper Marc-Andre TER STEGEN.
After taking a 2-1 lead into the break, Japan continued to dictate the pace in the second half, as Ito, Ueda, Morita, and Kamada combined to generate plays to threaten the opposing goal.
Coach Moriyasu brought on Asano and TANIGUCHI Shogo (Al-Rayyan SC) in the 58th minute to change their system to a three-back formation. Kubo and Tanaka were also introduced in the 74th minute, before DOAN Ritsu (SC Freiburg) and HASHIOKA Daiki (Sint-Truidense VV) came off the bench in the 84th minute.
While Germany continued to press forward in an effort to score the equaliser, the decisive moment came in the 90th minute, when Kubo swept the ball away from Robin GOSENS within the Japanese half and took it across the pitch before setting up a tap-in goal for Asano to make it 3-1.
Kubo, who has been in excellent form while playing in La Liga this season, added another goal for Japan in additional time, when he delivered a pin-point cross from the right side to setup Tanaka’s header.
With the final whistle blowing shortly after, Japan marked their second straight victory over Germany, this time by a score of 4-1.
The SAMURAI BLUE will now head over to Genk, Belgium, where they will face the Turkiye National Team in the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2023 on Tuesday, 12 September.
Coaches and Players' Comments
MORIYASU Hajime, Head Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
I think we played the game as we wanted, not only in the first half, but also in the second half. Similar to the World Cup, our opponents effectively utilised the width of the pitch to score a goal against us, but the players remained unfazed and managed to limit the damage to one goal in the first half, which allowed us to continue with our challenge in the second half. We were prepared to change our system to a three back formation midway through the first half, but delayed our decision after seeing that our players were actively challenging themselves to coupe with difficult situations, including the runs made from the opposing midfield. But in the second half, we decided to play three at the back to give ourselves more options against a strong German side. Not in terms of ball possession, but in terms of attacks coming from our defence, I believe we were able to generate enough opportunities to make it uncomfortable for our opponents. The players understood the importance of creating more chances and fought with great intelligence and skills. I believe that our utilisation of various options, such as how we took the initiative in the first half, maintained our advantage while also creating opportunities in the second, gives the team a lot of confidence. We still had plenty of additional opportunities that we could have taken advantage of, so I will continue to hold our players to higher standards, but I also want to commend them for the win and for the fact that they were able to challenge what they were trying to do in a completely away game. This match must have been difficult for Germany given the pressure they were under, but aside from that, our players' ability to collaborate as a team in each individual phase of the game and their willingness to take risks when necessary will boost their confidence and help them progress as players in the future.
DF #16 TOMIYASU Takehiro (Arsenal/England)
It was our responsibility as defenders to keep the line high and the team compact, and I believe we succeeded in doing so, which is why we were able to maintain the game compact. We were at a numerical disadvantage because our opponents had a five-man front line, so we made a conscious effort to slide quickly from training. However, because we were playing four against five, there were times when we were outpaced by Sane, which made us think it would be a stretch to play 90 minutes with four at the back, so switching to five helped us settle down a bit. I believe Moriyasu-san's coaching was excellent since he was able to make adjustments as the game progressed. Making swift transitions after winning the ball was one of our goals for this match, and I believe we succeeded in that matter. Personally, I felt that my absence from the national team meant that my presence in the team was diminished or even forgotten, so I needed to prove my value once more.
MF/FW #6 ENDO Wataru (Liverpool FC/England)
In contrast to the World Cup, we attempted to seize the initiative by acting on our own, and I believe we performed very well in both defence and offence. The first half went according to plan, and in the second half we changed our formation to a three-man defence, which made us play more defensively, but we were able to set up a solid block and although it would have been ideal if we could have scored the third goal a little earlier, we executed the game plan well, including the substitutions, and eventually managed to score the third and fourth goals, so I think the game developed in an ideal way. I think we played with confidence in every play, and I think every single one of us believes that we can take on the opponent in front of us, no matter who they are. I think it probably comes from the confidence we have gained at our respective clubs and I think the growth of each and every one of us has led to this result.
MF/FW #7 MITOMA Kaoru (Brighton & Hove Albion FC/England)
We played very differently in the first half than we did in the second, but we were able to adjust well to both and make our opponents uncomfortable. We were able to take control of the game because we were successful in converting the limited opportunities we had in the first half. Even though Germany have not been at their best recently, it gives us a lot of confidence to win the game the way we did, especially knowing how star-studded their squad is. We never gave them the game and I thought we were the better team in the way we fought.
MF/FW #9 UEDA Ayase (Feyenoord/Netherlands)
I feel that I was able to contribute a little to this result, including the timing and the way I scored the goal. Not only did I have a completely different mindset and feeling from before, but it was a completely different game and I think I was able to enjoy the whole experience. I knew they had a strong centre-back, so I was looking forward to seeing if my positioning and what we were doing as a team would work against them. I think it was good that we had that kind of motivation going into this game. I was there for the World Cup and the World Cup qualifiers, but I never felt like I was contributing or doing anything because I was substituted in the first half against Germany, Spain, and Costa Rica. But today's game gave me a different feeling. I feel pretty happy with my performance, but I could have made the game easier for the team if I had scored another goal in the first half, so I need to work on that.
MF/FW #14 ITO Junya (Stade de Reims/France)
When Sugawara made the run, I thought someone had to make a run to the near post, which is what I always want when I cross the ball, so I was happy to be able to get a touch on the ball to score that goal. Instead of pressurising the ball from the front, we were able to setup a block in the middle to win the ball and initiate counterattacks. Today's win has boosted our confidence, but I think it's important to keep playing our game and not react to every result.
MF/FW #18 ASANO Takuma (VfL Bochum/Germany)
We were winning as a team when I came on, so focused on staying on the same page as everyone else, especially in defence. Instead of pressing up front, I tried to act as a switch for the team, restricting the opposition's passing lanes so that our team could win the ball in midfield, which was what the coach instructed me to do. I thought everyone played well from the start of the game and I was impressed with how good they were and how confident they were. I think that was the biggest difference from when we played them in the World Cup. I thought we responded well to Germany's strengths and moved the ball around with confidence when we had possession, which was great. I tried to visualise what I could do on the pitch as I was watching the game from the bench. I believe that everyone's efforts at their respective clubs are definitely contributing to the improvement of the national team.
MF/FW #20 KUBO Takefusa (Real Sociedad/Spain)
There are a lot of factors to take into account, including Germany's recent lack of form, but we managed to stick to our plan of dropping back and countering. Our approach was similar to that of the World Cup, but the circumstances were different because we were winning, and it is a tactic widely used by top European clubs. I think we had a very good game plan. Personally, I am happy that I was able to produce results, even though I only had 15 minutes to do so. I was able to play with poise because I was confident, and I tried to be aggressive up front, even with the limited time I had. I think those were the only two chances I had, so I feel confident that I was able to make the most of both of them. If this makes everyone think that the game would have been easier if Kubo had started, then I will be satisfied.
Hansi FLICK, Head Coach of Germany National Team
We are very greatly disappointed. We didn't have the means to beat Japan’s compact defence. I thought the team was getting better, but some individual mistakes destroyed the confidence we thought we had built up. The players fought hard to level the score at 2-2 and although we have some great talents, a few mistakes prevented us from breaking through. This is something we need to improve as a team. It was a tough match and the goals we conceded made it even more difficult. Japan fared well by staying true to the fundamentals.
International Friendly Match
SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) vs Germany National Team
Sat. 9 September 2023, 20:45 (Sun. 10 September, 3:45 Japan time)
Venue: Volkswagen Arena (Wolfsburg, Germany)
SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) vs Turkiye National Team
Tue. 12 September 2023, 14:20 (Tue. 12 September, 21:20 Japan time)
Venue: Cegeka Arena (Genk, Belgium)
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