SAMURAI BLUE’s Coach Moriyasu “The players have shown us a great view” at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™
07 December 2022
On Tuesday 6 December, one day following the team’s round of 16 defeat to the Croatia National Team at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, Head Coach MORIYASU Hajime of the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) reflected on the team’s journey and said, “We have no regrets. The players have shown us a great view.”
Japan, making their seventh World Cup appearance, defeated former champions Germany and Spain to advance through the group stage in first place but fell to Croatia on penalties after playing 120 minutes in the round of 16. Despite reaching the knockout stage in back-to-back attempts, Japan's quest to advance to the quarterfinals had to be put on hold—at least until 2026.
Speaking to the media at the Al-Sadd training facility, the team's base camp during the tournament, coach Moriyasu commented, “We did everything we could. The entire team gave it their best at all times.”
The coach commented on the players' performance in this tournament following four and a half years of team building, “Although we were unable to gain a new perspective (by reaching the quarterfinals), the players have shown us a great view, demonstrating that we can compete with the best teams in the world on an equal footing and win. They have significantly altered our belief that we can overtake the world.” Referring to his own experience from the “Agony of Doha,” in which Japan missed out on qualifying for the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA™, coach Moriyasu said, “I think we were able to change our impression [on Doha to a positive one].”
YOSHIDA Maya (FC Schalke 04) said, “It was a good team, and I wanted to give them a win to push them up to another level. We must improve and discover how to prevail in matches like that.” The veteran defender also expressed his gratitude to the coach for giving him the opportunity to serve as captain, saying, “It allowed me to develop as a person.”
In his fourth World Cup appearance, Kawashima Eiji (RC Strasbourg) expressed his disappointment at not making the quarterfinals, “We really wanted to crack the barrier (of the top 16), knowing how much we have struggled in the past and how much potential this team has.” The seasoned goalkeeper, however, added, “We can get there with Japan's current strength, no question about that. The World Cup comes around every four years and we only have a short period of time to prove it, but I believe we can proceed with confidence.”
The team was disbanded on this day, and after a month of hard work, some players will take a short break, while others will immediately re-join their club to prepare for the remainder of the season.
MORIYASU Hajime, Head Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
The coach's responsibility is to make the team win and to make the supporters happy. The players and staff worked hard and gave their best, but I am very sorry that I could not let them win in the end. I felt I didn't have what it takes to help the team win and as I lay in bed this morning, I wondered, “What could I have done differently” to win, “what did we lack?” Although we had some tactical shortcomings, I have no regrets about how we built this team. The entire team always gave it their best effort, and I believe we did everything we could. Over the course of the four matches we played, we managed to get better because we were able to refine our strategy along the way.
Croatia nullified all of our advantages. We entered this tournament with as many options as possible, but it was not enough to outperform our opponents. As long as we don't get carried away with our strategies and let the players cultivate their individuality, Japan's cohesion and organisational strength will prosper. Considering we were ahead in the match and drew 1-1 [in 120 minutes], we were able to play the game according to our plan to a certain extent. Including the three group stage matches, we were able to fend off and withstand the opponents’ attempts to take advantage of their height, which is an area Japan has improved a lot over the years. The players have gained more international experience and raised the overall level, which in my opinion, was sufficient to change how other nations view Japan. Although we were unable to gain a new perspective (by reaching the quarterfinals), the players have shown us a great view, demonstrating that we can compete with the best teams in the world on an equal footing and win. We still have a lot to learn from the world, but these players have significantly altered our belief that we can overtake the world. I'm incredibly appreciative of all of our supporters and the individuals who have fought alongside us for the past four and a half years, which has been a very fulfilling experience.
TASHIMA Kohzo, JFA President
Unfortunately, we fell a step short of the “new view” we were looking for. We have worked extremely hard for this—four years after Russia and six years since coach Moriyasu assumed control of the Olympics team—but I'm sorry to let so many of you down with this outcome. However, I think the players, staff and coaches are the most frustrated. In my opinion, a penalty shootout is largely determined by luck, and either team could have won. We lost to Croatia, the runners-up of the last tournament, but I would like to thank the players, staff, and coaches once again. Top teams in the FIFA rankings are making their way through, and in order for us to reach the next level, we need to find ways to break this barrier. The fact that we lost in a penalty shootout reminded us once again of our shortcomings and that we are still work in progress. When you see how the four teams, other than Croatia, advancing with ease, it makes us think that we need to strive for an even higher level. Following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, we once again failed to maintain our lead, but this time the players battled valiantly to keep the score tied. The last World Cup [against Belgium] is still fresh in our minds, and I believe it has allowed us to mature as a team. They did well to advance this far by defeating a number of formidable opponents. I think coach Moriyasu did a fantastic job.
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