Moriyasu sees challengers aplenty for Japan
Abu Dhabi: Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu believes his side are just one of several teams who have what it takes to win the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 title.
Genki Haraguchi’s first-half penalty helped the Samurai Blue seal a narrow 1-0 win over Oman on Sunday, a result which – along with Uzbekistan’s subsequent defeat of Turkmenistan – saw Japan go through to the Round of 16.
Although happy with his side’s progress thus far, the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima boss was quick to add that there are other nations emerging who he feels also have the potential to become champions of Asia.
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“I think that all the teams who are here in this tournament have a chance of winning it,” he said.
“That is especially true for those sides have already qualified for the knockout phase.
“Japan are definitely here to win the title, but at the same time, match by match, we want to keep on developing as a team until we [hopefully] reach the final.”
After guiding Japan to a second successive group stage victory, Moriyasu admitted that there is still room for improvement, especially as the four-time AFC Asian Cup champions are set to play Uzbekistan in their final game – an encounter which will determine who finishes top of Group F.
“We know that every game will be tough at the AFC Asian Cup,” explained the Kakegawa native.
“I know that we need to improve going forward in order to create more chances from which we could score and then kill off a game. Like today, if we had scored more goals in the first half, it would have made the game easier for us.
“We have learned more about ourselves, something which we can take into the next match.”
After seeing his side succumb to their second group stage defeat, Oman head coach Pim Verbeek was quick to admit that Japan fully deserved the victory.
“I am proud of what my players did, and of course we are disappointed with the result,” he declared.
“Before the game started, we knew Japan had a better and more experienced team. We were well prepared, but in the first 10 to 15 minutes we were quite lucky that it was still 0-0. They had chances and our goalkeeper made some excellent saves."
“Overall, the penalty did not influence the game, and Japan were the better team, although in the second half I thought we improved and were able to create some chances.”
Despite Oman’s second group stage loss, the 2017 Gulf Cup winners remain in contention for a place in the next round – a fact not lost on Verbeek.
“Omani people are very proud, and they will never give up. We will give everything to win the game and score goals. As long as there is a chance to finish third, you never know [what will happen]."
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