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HOME > National Teams > NEWS > SAMURAI BLUE beat New Zealand with Kurata’s first international goal in KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017


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SAMURAI BLUE beat New Zealand with Kurata’s first international goal in KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017

07 October 2017

SAMURAI BLUE beat New Zealand with Kurata’s first international goal in KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017

SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) faced New Zealand National Team in the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017 on Friday 6 October at Toyota Stadium in Aichi as substitute midfielder KURATA Shu (Gamba Osaka) helped his team win 2-1 with his maiden international goal in the closing minutes.

It was Japan’s first training match after they clinched their sixth consecutive FIFA World Cup berth to be held next year. Japan coach Vahid HALILHODZIC said before the match, “I will give playing time as many players as possible,” in order to select the squad for the finals. The starting line-up was led by the players who frequently played in the final qualifiers such as forward OSAKO Yuya (1.FC Koeln/Germany), but also included MAKINO Tomoaki (Urawa Red Diamonds) as a central defender, MUTO Yoshinori (1.FSV Mainz 05/Germany) at the left wing and midfielder KAGAWA Shinji (Borussia Dortmund/Germany) behind the striker. Makino made the last appearance with the national team last October in the final qualifiers against Australia, but it was for the first time in two years for him to play a central defender. Muto also came back to the starting squad after two-year of interval.

Japan demonstrated quick attacking football from the start as Osako’s shot was parried away by the New Zealand goalkeeper in the 6th minute and Kagawa’s shot hit off the right post in the 8th minute. Japan kept threatening to the opponents’ goal with Muto, Kagawa and KUBO Yuya (KAA Gent/Belgium), but their shots lacked accuracy going off target.

Meanwhile, Oceanian champions New Zealand, whose World Cup playoff match against a South American team is to be held in November, listed the players who played in the FIFA Confederations Cup in June on the starters for this match. All Whites started slowly and finished the first half with only one shot by forward Chris WOOD in the 30th minute.

The deadlock broke just after the halftime.

Midfielder YAMAGUCHI Hotaru (Cerezo Osaka) cut in from the right flank, and his shot resulted in an opponent’s handball and a penalty kick for Japan. Osako sent the goalkeeper the wrong way from the spot and gave his side the opening goal.

However, New Zealand rallied back immediately after that. They enhanced the intensity on duel and came close to Japan’s goal with free kicks and long throws. In the 59th minute, Wood sneaked in between Japanese defenders SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille/France) and YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC/England) and headed home a right cross to level matters.

Then it was the Japanese substitutes who changed the course of the match.

Halilhodzic sent on forward SUGIMOTO Kenyu (Cerezo Osaka) and midfielder KOBAYASHI Yuki (SC Heerenveen/Netherlands) in the 61st minute. After INUI Takashi (SD Eibar/Spain) coming on nine minutes later, he launched attacks from the left flank, linking up with Kobayashi. Sugimoto fired a shot in the 75th minute, and NAGATOMO Yuto (FC Internazionale Milano/Italy) also showed his own effort with a shot from the edge of the box just after that. In the 85th minute, Kobayashi took a left-footed first-time shot towards goal, but his shot was denied by the New Zealand goalkeeper.

Yet in the 88th minute, after Sakai laid off Inui’s left cross with his header at the far post, Kurata coming on as an 82nd-minute substitute dived and headed it home to put his side in front. It was his first goal as a senior Japanese international after five caps, with his last appearance being in the final qualifiers match against Iraq last June.

Halilhodzic replaced six players in all, six positions in forwards and midfielders, last being midfielder ENDO Wataru (Urawa Red Diamonds) in added time. The Japan boss gave the substitutes credit for their performance, saying “The fresh legs gave the team quickness and speed.”

Japan will next play against Haiti on Tuesday 10 at Nissan Stadium in Kanagawa.

Coach's and Players' Comments

Vahid HALILHODZIC, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
We won the match, but it wasn’t easy. There were some interesting stretches, but we gave away the initiative just after we scored a goal. We allowed the opponents to feed long balls into our box through throw-ins and free-kicks, so it was not surprising that they tied the match there. Our match control wasn’t good and they attacked us there, and our players got hasty a little. But after we allowed the goal, we re-established our movements with good speed and our style to utilise the space, which deserves credits. Our attitude to attack time and time again for shots was good as well. Our second goal came out of such attitudes. I am looking for new things. I recognise that today’s match wasn’t a perfect match and our team were far from being in top form. The opponents were very good team with impressive physicality. I want to praise my players for this win, because wins impact your mentality in a good way. We want to make sure to raise the level of our team in next several months, but there are also some players who need to get better individually. There are many things to correct and we need to keep working hard every day.

MF #7 KURATA Shu (Gamba Osaka)
Sakai dropped the ball at the right place, so all I needed to do was put it home. I hadn’t been able to help my team in the four matches I played, so it was good that I could score a goal today. Our coach said before the match “Never stop going deep into the box,” and I think I could do that fairly well.

MF #10 KAGAWA Shinji (Borussia Dortmund)
The shot that hit the post was the one I really wanted to put in. The opponents’ pressure was not so strong, so I could get near their goal easily. It’s not surprising that keeping the motivation is difficult right after clinching the World Cup spot. So, we could at least come out with a win today and it was good. Next match will see many new players, and the key is how much of different positive aspects our team can show. I think all the players there will be full of enthusiasm and willingness to show off, but it’s expected for us to bring out a certain number of new findings there as well.

FW #15 OSAKO Yuya (1.FC Koeln)
It was good that we could win this match. For me, even though it was a penalty kick, I am glad that I could score a goal. But there are many more things to get done, and I realised that individual abilities need to be higher.

Anthony HUDSON, Coach of New Zealand National Team
We were so close to getting the big achievement, and it’s disappointing that it didn’t come true. My players showed their strength, worked hard and struck back, but we didn’t start off the match as we wanted, overwhelmed by Japan’s quick attacks in the beginning. I realised we need to manage that aspect better. I hope we can play more like we did today.

JFA-TV (Japanese version only)

Highlights from Kirin Challenge Cup 2017 vs New Zealand

Message to fans from YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton)


Sun. 1 October PM Training
Mon. 2 October PM Training
Tue. 3 October PM Training
Wed. 4 October PM Training
Thu. 5 October 17:00
Official Conference (Toyota Stadium)
Official Training (Toyota Stadium)
Fri. 6 October 2-1 KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017
vs New Zealand (Toyota Stadium)
Sat. 7 October AM Training
Sun. 8 October PM Training
Mon. 9 October 17:00
Official Conference (Nissan Stadium)
Official Training (Nissan Stadium)
Tue. 10 October 19:30 KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017
vs Haiti (Nissan Stadium)

* The schedule is subject to change due to the team condition, the weather, etc.

Tue. 10 October 2017 19:30 kick off (estimated time)
SAMURAI BLUE vs Haiti National Team
Kanagawa/Nissan Stadium
TV Broadcasting. Live broadcasting across Japan by TBS Group

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