【Match Report】SAMURAI BLUE suffer painful loss to Costa Rica
28 November 2022
On Sunday 27 November, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) lost their match 0-1 against the Costa Rica National Team in their second group stage match of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
On this day, Spain drew with Germany 1-1 to maintain their lead with four points. Japan and Costa Rica are tied on three points, but Japan hold the advantage in goal difference, while Germany are in last place with one point. Japan will face Spain for a chance to advance to the knockout stage on Thursday 1 December.
The Costa Rican defence posed a challenge for the SAMURAI BLUE to create chances throughout the afternoon match played at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium.
Following their win over Germany on Wednesday 23, Japan entered this match with a chance to clinch the knockout stage with a win over Costa Rica, depending on how Spain and Germany fared in their other match. For this match, Head Coach MORIYASU Hajime made five changes to their line-up, as he named UEDA Ayase (Cercle Brugge KSV) as the lone-striker up top, with DOAN Ritsu (SC Freiburg) and SOMA Yuki (Nagoya Grampus) in the flanks. MORITA Hidemasa (Sporting CP) was paired with ENDO Wataru (VfB Stuttgart) in the defensive midfield position, while YAMANE Miki (Kawasaki Frontale) started as the right fullback.
Costa Rica changed their system from a four-back to a five-back formation, putting emphasis on defence while looking for their opportunities to attack with counterattacks, as they were in a must win situation after suffering a 0-7 blowout loss to Spain in their first match.
Japan controlled the ball possession from the early minutes but struggled to produce chances in their attacking third. With the exception of the early opportunity created by Soma on the left side, the Japanese offence was unable to settle the ball in the final third and failed to pose a threat to their opponents. Towards the end of the first half, Japan pushed Yamane to a higher position in an effort to diversify their offense, but they ended the first half empty-handed.
After a scoreless first half, coach Moriyasu brought on ASANO Takuma (VfL Bochum) and ITO Hiroki (VfB Stuttgart) to start the second half with a three-back formation. Although this system change allowed Japan to create some opportunities, it was not enough to penetrate the Costa Rican defence line.
Desperately needing a goal, Japan introduced MITOMA Kaoru (Brighton & Hove Albion FC) and ITO Junya (Stade de Reims) in the 62nd and 67th minutes respectively. However, their offensive struggles continued, as they failed to find ways to break down the solid block laid in front the Costa Rican goal.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 81st minute, however, it was Costa Rica who got on the score board. The goal came when Joel CAMPBELL held the ball in the right side before passing it to Celso BORGES, who delivered a lobbing pass into the space behind the Japanese defence line. Although Japan was able to deflect this pass, Costa Rica managed to recover the ball to set up the shot of Keysher FULLER, which found the back of the net.
In the 88th minute, Mitoma penetrated the left side and delivered a pass that found KAMADA Daichi (Eintracht Frankfurt) unmarked inside the box, but the shot taken by the midfielder was saved by the Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor NAVAS.
Despite their late rally, Japan failed to score the equaliser, as the match ended 0-1.
Japan will now face Spain in their final group match at Khalifa International Stadium, while Costa Rica face Germany at Al Bayt Stadium. Japan can still clinch the knockout stage with a win, and possibly with a draw, depending on the outcome of the fixture between Costa Rica and Germany.
Both matches in Group E are scheduled to kick-off at 22:00 on Thursday 1 December (Friday 2 December at 4:00 Japan time).
Coaches and Players’ Comments
MORIYASU Hajime, Head Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
We were able to contain our opponents for the majority of the match while seeking for our chances to score. Despite not being able to control the ball well in the first half, we were able to seize control of the match in the second half. It would have been great if we had scored at the very end, but instead, it was our opponents who capitalise on their opportunity. This result is undoubtedly disappointing, but the players persevered in trying to increase their chances of winning, as they did their part to enter the match smoothly and respond well to the changes made during the match. We have no regrets in terms of how we rotated our line-up. It was a necessary decision in order to improve our chances of winning in these extremely intense matches against Germany, Costa Rica, and Spain. We struggled to create chances when our opponents had fresh legs in the first half, but we saw an increasing amount of opportunities created after we made changes to bring in more attacking players in the second half. The match went according to our plan for the most part, which makes me believe that our preparation work was heading in the right direction. However, this match served as a reminder that we must be able to demonstrate our top performance from the start and raise the overall level of Japanese football in order to compete at the world stage. Our plan was to secure at least a point while trying to win three points, but it didn’t work out that way. We will be up against Spain next, but we had always intended to compete through all three matches of the group stage. We have beaten Germany, so we should have a chance against Spain, too. Although we anticipate a challenging match, we will make every effort to get ready and feel confident going into it.
FP #6 ENDO Wataru (VfB Stuttgart/Germany)
To be honest, we wated at least a draw from this match. We didn't mind if the match progressed scoreless as long as we prevented our opponents from scoring, and I don't think we defended poorly. Even when our opponents possessed the ball, we were aware that we still needed to be patient. The goal, though, was scored as the match began to open up toward the end. If we give up a goal during that stage of the match, our opponents will inevitably tighten their defence to lock up the win. Despite having some opportunities at the very end, we were unable to take advantage of them. This match served as a reminder that we still need to improve our offence and that a simple mistake will cost us the match at competitions like the World Cup. We must switch our focus to the next match. We entered the tournament expecting that we need to compete in all three matches in order to advance through, so we just have to keep fighting.
FP #8 DOAN Ritsu (SC Freiburg/Germany)
The match turned into a stalemate with our opponents shifting their system to a five-back formation. We were unable to create chances from the flanks and I feel like I have spent the entire match thinking where I should position myself. We were prepared to change our system when facing a five-back formation, so the fact that we finished the first half 0-0 was not a bad result. However, as the match progressed scoreless, I believe that everyone on the team began to feel somewhat under pressure to come away with three points, which caused us to rush our plays in the attacking third. We were forcing unnecessary passes to tight spaces and frequently lost possession of the ball. We don’t have time to dwell on this result. It’s important that we grit our teeth and fight through, so that we don’t leave any regrets.
FP #13 MORITA Hidemasa (Sporting CP/Portugal)
We gave our opponents the opportunity to possess the ball in the first half because we weren't applying enough pressure. However, once we started to apply pressure in the second half, we began to create more opportunities, so I am pleased with the way we started the second half. A simple flaw in our passes can cost the entire match in competitions like these. It could be a difference of taking just another step to prevent a shot. That is the kind of precision we need to pursue in order to compete at this level. We also lacked quality in our plays at the final third, so that is another area we must improve. We regret how we conceded the goal, but more than that, we cannot win matches if we don’t score goals.
FP #14 ITO Junya (Stade de Reims/France)
The match was tied 0-0 when I entered, so I tried to create chances by attacking the spaces in the flank. I started out playing as a shadow striker, so I was anticipating for my opportunities to take a shot, but we weren’t getting the ball out to the flanks. Watching from outside, it felt like the rotation might have made it difficult for us to work in tandem. After winning against Germany, we could have advanced through with a win over Costa Rica, but we are now on the brink of elimination, so we have to give everything we’ve got in our match against Spain. Similar to our match against Germany, we are expecting Spain to dominate the ball possession, but we need to stay aggressive and seek for our opportunity to win the match.
FP #21 UEDA Ayase (Cercle Brugge KSV/Belgium)
I entered the match with the intention of rerouting my runs after laying off passes that are delivered to me, but with our opponents tightening their defence at the centre, it was difficult to settle the ball in the attacking third. However, it is my job as a forward to settle the ball and score goals regardless of the circumstance, so those are some of the areas I need to improve as an individual. You cannot always expect the ball to be delivered to you in a perfect situation, so I need to be able to control the ball in order to buy time for my team. In terms of defence, our opponents’ defensive midfielder was left unmarked in the first half, giving their defence an outlet to release the ball. We managed to make the adjustments in the second half to apply more pressure and win the ball in the opposing end. It was a tense match, but I wish I had done more for the team.
FP #22 YOSHIDA Maya (FC Schalke 04/Germany)
We had to be wary of their counterattacks and set pieces as our opponents laid a block in the middle, similar to how we played against Germany. But one of the reasons we gave up the goal was because we were too indecisive in the way we pressed ball. Considering the stage of the match and where we were in relation to the goal, I should have just cleared the ball rather than trying to connect the ball to Morita. Having lost their first match in the way they did, Costa Rica came out attacking the ball with great aggression, so we spoke during halftime that we need to match their intensity level. We also changed our formation and moved Yamane to a higher position to create more chances, but it wasn’t enough to breakdown their defensive block. Following our win against Germany, I urged myself and the team to focus on our preparations, because I suspected that this was going to be a tough match, but we ended up with the worst case scenario. This served as another reminder of how challenging football can be. From here, we simply need to shift our focus to the upcoming match against Spain, where we will concentrate on recovering our condition and getting ready as effectively as we can. We haven't achieved or lost anything yet. We will keep working hard to earn points.
Luis Fernando SUAREZ, Head Coach of Costa Rica National Team
I’m not going to talk about technical or tactical aspects, there will be more appropriate times to do that. Today, I need to value and appreciate what these players have done to get this result. We had to face many challenges. However, we firmly believed and wanted to do things well to be 100% committed to our country, to play well against an opponent such as Japan, who played so well against Germany, and this is something that needs to be appreciated greatly. We weren't dead yesterday and we are still very much alive today, and we have to think about the next match on Thursday. We will have to play (against Germany) with the same pressure as in the last two matches. But we are well alive, no one can forget about us just yet. We can still dream.
TASHIMA Kohzo, JFA President
This is a disappointing result but having three points after two matches were within our expectations. We should not be carried away by the result of a single match. We just need to win our third match. It is simple as that. I am sure the coaches and players are demoralised by this result, but this is part of football. There will be times when the result does not comply with the performance. I am sure the team will evaluate what transpired in this match in order to get ready for the next one.
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™
Tournament Dates: Sun. 20 November - Sun. 18 December 2022
1st Match: Wed. 23 November 16:00 [Local Time] vs Germany National Team
2nd Match: Sun. 27 November 13:00 [Local Time] vs Costa Rica National Team
3rd Match: Thu. 1 December 22:00 [Local Time] vs Spain National Team
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