Japan's resilience makes Moriyasu proud
Al Ain: Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu hailed his players’ spirit after they came back from going a goal down to defeat Uzbekistan on Thursday evening to claim top spot in Group F of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
Eldor Shomurodov gave the Uzbeks the lead five minutes before half time but a 43rd minute header from Yoshinori Muto and a long-range drive by Tsukasa Shiotani in the second half earned Moriyasu’s side all three points despite the coach making wholesale changes to his starting line-up.
“I think how we kept doing what we needed to do was one key reason we won,” said the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima coach. “If the players stopped doing something or if their heads went down after the first goal we couldn’t have scored our first goal.
“But their heads didn’t go down, they were very positive. That’s why we were able to equalise and that led to our performance in the second half.”
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Moriyasu made 10 changes from the side that defeated Oman 1-0 in the second round of group games, but the head coach claimed he was not using the match as a trial for his second string ahead of the knockout phase.
“I didn’t intend this to be a test, we wanted to show that we can play as a team and the players showed their motivation to go to a higher level in this competition,” said Moriyasu.
“The players achieved one of our goals and that was to advance to the knockout stage with three wins and at the top of the group.
“Before coming here we were looking to play with solidarity and as a unit and the players showed that on the pitch. It was a difficult match and they played well but with this result we have advanced to the next round.”
Japan will now take on Saudi Arabia in the Round of 16 while Uzbekistan meet Australia as a result of their second-place finish in Group F, with the game a rematch of the 2011 semi-final when the Socceroos registered a 6-0 win.
“We still have three or four days to prepare our team,” said Cuper. “Australia is a really tough opponent and we need to be ready for them, but we need to focus on our own game and not our rivals.
“We need to get the players recovered, they must recover until the Round of 16. Australia have their own advantages but we will still come to the pitch to win, only to win. We will have the chance to win and if you want to win the Asian Cup you should be ready to play anyone.”
The Argentinian complimented his players’ showing again the Japanese, even though the Uzbeks maintained their record of never having won against the four-time champions.
“You can’t be content when your team loses and that’s why it hurts a bit, but I’m content with my team’s performance,” he said. “They gave their all and they fought to the end. Japan were really quick. We knew they would press quickly and really well, but still we had enough chances to score and we didn’t convert them.
“I’m satisfied that we controlled the ball better today but after this loss we will try to make the proper conclusions and improve our game. I’m satisfied with the efforts the players made. The game was equal even though we lost.”
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