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HOME > National Teams > NEWS > KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017: SAMURAI BLUE draw with Syria 1-1


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KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017: SAMURAI BLUE draw with Syria 1-1

08 June 2017

KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017: SAMURAI BLUE draw with Syria 1-1

On Wednesday 7 June, SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) faced Syria National Team at Tokyo Stadium in the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017. The Japanese squad conceded a goal at the beginning of the second half, but drew the match after KONNO Yasuyuki (Gamba Osaka) scored an equaliser.

The following match was the final tester for Japan before they head to Teheran in 6 days and compete against Iraq in the 2018 World Cup Final Asian Qualifiers.

Japanese coach regarded Syria as ‘a team similar to Iraq’ and selected three players in midfield—Konno, who has returned to the team for the first time since the UAE match in March, KAGAWA Shinji (Borussia Dortmund), and YAMAGUCHI Hotaru (Cerezo Osaka). Making his third appearance in the national squad, defender SHOJI Gen (Kashima Antlers) paired up for the first time with YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC) as one of the central halves as well.

Unfortunate incident occurred for the Halilhodzic's men as Kagawa had to leave the pitch due to shoulder injury after colliding with the Syrian player. KURATA Shu (Gamba Osaka) was brought in as his replacement after 10 minutes of play.

Substitute Kurata attempted to create effective attacks by sending deep passes to the frontline, but the Japanese squad continued to struggle to break through the solid Syria’s defence, as they lacked agility in finding open space upfront and the players were too distant from one another to combine well.

On the other hand, Syria are also making their final preparation for the upcoming match of the Final Asian Qualifiers against China next week. Despite losing to Japan last year in the Second Asian Qualifiers twice with the final score of 3-0 and 5-0, the Middle Eastern squad came out aggressively and took the initiative at the beginning of the match.

Some of the early chances for the Syrian team came in as defender MOUAIAD ALAJAAN worked the left flank with threatening dribbles, midfielder MHD. ZAHIR ALGUNAMI ALMEDANI fired from range in the 14th minute, and forward MARDEK MARDKIAN reacted to the cleared ball just before a half-hour mark and fired a right-footer at Japanese goal, but their efforts failed to hit the target.

In search for the opening goal, Japan tried to break through the opposing defence with forwards HARAGUCHI Genki (Hertha BSC Berlin) and OSAKO Yuya (1.FC Koeln) on the attacks and created a menacing chance in the 36th minute. Defender SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille) surged up on the overlap and his cut-back was met by Haraguchi, but the end product was blocked by the Syrian defender. Just before the break, another scoring opportunity came through other forward KUBO Yuya (KAA Gent), when he received a direct pass from Konno just outside of the box, but his left-footed attempt went wide to the left.

The match moved in favour of the Syrian squad just 3 minutes after the break as AMRO JENIAT crossed the ball from the right wing and Mardkian applied a final touch with a header for his side to open the scoring.

However, just before the hour mark, Japan carved open the opposing defence from the left flank with superb exchanges of passes and found NAGATOMO Yuto (FC Internazionale Milano) dash up the sideline and cut inside the box to send a brilliant cross to the far side, where onrushing midfielder Konno tapped in a right-footed finish into the net and leveled the match, as he later commented, ‘I was open when I ran inside the box, and thought I had an excellent chance to score’.

Looking for a go-ahead goal, Japan brought in midfielder INUI Takashi (SD Eibar) for Haraguchi right after scoring an equaliser. The substitution worked well for the Japanese side as they found their attacking pace and flair combining with second-half substitute and forward HONDA Keisuke (AC Milan). Furthermore, defensive replacement midfielder IDEGUCHI Yosuke (Gamba Osaka) performed superbly in the anchor position, and his relentless pursuit for the ball in midfield has brought stability in the Japanese defence as well.

With momentum on their side, Japan created several chances in the last 30 minutes of play. In the 64th minute, Inui cut inside to find Nagatomo inside the box, but his attempt missed the target, and two minutes later Nagatomo crossed the ball towards the far side, where Sakai volleyed a left-footed effort only to see it blaze over the bar. After 74th minutes, through a wonderful pass work in the middle, Honda surged up and fired a shot at goal, but was blocked by the opposing goalkeeper.

Furthermore, Japan’s menacing attacks continued as Inui controlled superbly the long side-changing ball from Honda and evaded the challenge of the Syrian defender near the byline to cut inside the penalty area three minutes later, but the opponent’s goalkeeper positioned himself well to deny his effort at the near post. Towards the end of the match, few other chances were fashioned through scoring attempts by substitute forward ASANO Takuma (VfB Stuttgart) and Honda, but the Japanese side were unable to find the tiebreaker.

Syria, on the other hand, tried to create their chances with menacing dribbling attacks by Mardkian and forward MAHMOUD AL MAWAS, but were unable to carve open the solid Samurai’s defence. Their last attempt came in the closing minutes, when forward AHMAD ALDOUNI reacted to the cleared ball and smashed a right-footer, but goalkeeper KAWASHIMA Eiji (FC Metz) denied his scoring effort. The thrilling contest remained in the balance until the end of the match with the final score of one apiece.

Match Report

The Japanese squad will have light training in Tokyo on Thursday 8, before they head to Teheran to square off against Iraq on Tuesday 13.

Coaches' and Players' Comments

Vahid HALILHODZIC, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
It was an excellent test match for us. We entered the game poorly, and failed to display our style of football after Kagawa left the pitch with injury. Some of my players lacked intensity at the beginning, and I found especially midfield to be the problem. The opponents controlled the attacking and defending pace: while the defenders were positioned too far from the opposing players in their challenges, the forward players were left alone upfront being too distant from the midfielders and unable to attack effectively with team efforts. Along with some ball hogging, we simply could not execute our game play well. Furthermore, few of my players were overwhelmed by the opponents’ tactics and their high individual skills, and failed to win the heads-on battles as Syrian internationals were much quicker at reacting and better at predicting the ball with superior inspiration and higher motivation levels.

However, the flow of the game changed in the second half. I subbed in new players and gave them detailed instructions about the positioning and tactics. Then, we started to move the ball more smoothly and along with the improved off-the-ball movements, we found open spaces more easily. It was a shame that we could not capitalise on the three or four wonderful scoring chances we had. I have to note the superb performances of the three substitutes, Inui, Honda and Ideguchi as well. We had an excellent second half worth of a win, but were forced to a draw. The result is a good warning for us. While we attempted many new styles of plays with substitutions, I believe we gained a lot as a team as well.

MF #17 KONNO Yasuyuki (Gamba Osaka)
In the match we were determined to win, it was regrettable that we ended up with a draw. I scored the goal thanks to the perfect break-through down the left flank. I focused on creating our own pace as a team, but Syrian players were physically tough and their pressing was quicker than we anticipated. As a result, we were overwhelmed a bit and had a hard time finding our rhythm in the first half. I wanted to steal the ball more often in higher positions and contribute more to the team’s offence taking more an attacking role in midfield as well.

MF #11 INUI Takashi (SD Eibar)
We had a tough first half, but as their work-rate went down in the second, I came off the bench and found open areas to receive the ball fairly well. Coach instructed me to exploit the space behind the backline, and while executing this game plan, I attempted to find areas to keep possession and become a focal point in attacks. I believe we will have many chances to carve open the opposing defence if we keep up the excellent combination as we did in the second half.

MAHMOUD ALYOUSSEF, Coach of Syria National Team
It was the important match for both Japan and us. We kept an excellent concentration in the first half and scored the opener (just after the break). We conceded a goal from our error thereafter and, however, the match was a wonderful learning experience for us as well. We are looking to maintain this mentality for the coming China match in the Final Asian Qualifiers. I believe since we are similar in playing style with Iraq, Japan also had a lot to gain from the match. Objectively speaking, Japan are superior to Iraq, but still need to carefully analyse their strengths and research their weaknesses as well.

JFA-TV (Japanese version only)

KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017 vs Syria National Team Highlights



Sun. 28 May PM Training
Mon. 29 May AM/PM Training
Tue. 30 May AM/PM Training
Wed. 31 May AM/PM Training
Thu. 1 June AM/PM Training
Fri. 2 June AM/PM Training
Sat. 3 June AM/PM Training
Sun. 4 June AM Training
Mon. 5 June PM Training *
Tue. 6 June 17:00
Official Conference (Tokyo Stadium)
Official Training (Tokyo Stadium)*
Wed. 7 June 1-1 KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017
vs Syria National Team (Tokyo Stadium)
Thu. 8 June AM Training
Fri. 9 June PM Training
Sat. 10 June PM Training *
Sun. 11 June PM Training *
Mon. 12 June TBC Official Conference
Official Training (PAS Stadium) *
Tue. 13 June 17:00 ASIAN QUALIFIERS
vs Iraq National Team (PAS Stadium)

*Local Time
*The schedule is subject to change due to the team condition, the weather, etc.
*Open to the media for the first 15min.


7 June 2017 (Wed.) 19:25 kick-off (estimated time)
SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) vs Syria National Team
Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo

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13 June 2017 (Tue.) 16:55 kick-off (estimated time)
[Japan Time: 2017-6-13 (Tue.) 21:25 kick off (estimated time)]
Iraq National Team vs SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
PAS Stadium, Iran

More Information

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