Japan’s defensive capabilities impress Moriyasu
Sharjah: It was a different Japan who sealed their AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 berth with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia on Monday.
Haijme Moriyasu’s team opted to play defensively and it was a move that paid off for the Samurai Blue as they kept their bid for a record-extending fifth Continental title on track.
Japan’s win came courtesy of Takehiro Tomiyasu’s header in the 20th minute but they found themselves defending for the major part of the match.
However, Moriyasu’s men held off the West Asians to earn a spot in the quarter-finals where they will face Park Hang-seo’s Vietnam on Thursday.
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“Winning is very important and facing Saudi Arabia, who are one of the top teams in Asia, was very difficult. My players played with patience, they kept a clean sheet. We now have a few days to recover and we’re focused on the next match.
“We wanted to hold possession, see more of the ball but Saudi Arabia controlled the match. After the goal, Saudi Arabia were aggressive in attack but the key for us was our patience.
“We are improving as a team. People might say we could have done better offensively but I think we showed everyone today that we are also good at defending," said Japan head coach Moriyasu.
Japan had been imperious in the group stage as their attacking football saw them register wins over Turkmenistan, Oman and Uzbekistan.
But the team that showed up in Sharjah on Monday played a different type of football and Moriyasu was proud with the way his team adapted.
“As you saw by the way we started, it was obvious what our game plan was. We wanted to apply pressure but also be able to defend.
“I told players before the match, that Saudi Arabia will come at us and that’s what happened, especially after we scored. I don’t think they expected us to score first and they spent the rest of the evening trying to find the equaliser.
“We won because we read the game well and that was the key today.”
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi was disappointed with the result but said he was pleased with his team’s performance despite their lack of finishing.
“I’m extremely disappointed with the result but satisfied with the way my players played against Japan. They played with pride and the movement was good but we couldn’t find the final touch,” said Pizzi, whose future is uncertain as his contract was only till the end of the AFC Asian Cup.
“We tried to control the match from the beginning and had a good share of possession but we just couldn’t execute in the final third and that cost us.”
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