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HOME > SAMURAI BLUE > ASIAN QUALIFIERS - ROAD TO RUSSIA [6/13] TOP > NEWS > SAMURAI BLUE hold first practice session in Tehran ahead of Iraq clash


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SAMURAI BLUE hold first practice session in Tehran ahead of Iraq clash

10 June 2017

SAMURAI BLUE hold first practice session in Tehran ahead of Iraq clash

SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) began practice ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers Final Round against Iraq after arriving in a neutral place Tehran on Friday 9 June.

After a 16-hour flight from Tokyo including transit time, scorching sun and fierce heat as high as 38 degrees were waiting for the Japanese players.

Responding to the terrorist attack that occurred in the Tehran city on 7 June, more than 30 police officers including security forces of the Iran Police were deployed for security at the practice site entrance about 20 kilometres outside of Tehran city. Other than that, however, there were apparently no major disruptions or tension but relaxed atmosphere when the practice began.

While midfielder YAMAGUCHI Hotaru (Cerezo Osaka), who hurt his right foot in the Syria match on 7th, continued to take a rest at hotel, defenders YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC) and SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille) came back after they skipped the session on the previous day.

At the beginning of the evening session, coach Vahid HALILHODZIC made his players brace themselves with his words on how to prepare for the match against Iraq. In consideration of their long trip and fatigue from the Syria match, the squad worked out lightly through running, passing the balls, and stretching.

Defender NAGATOMO Yuto (FC Internazionale Milano) dropped out of the further training after suffering a right adductor strain while running.

Before the practice session, the Japanese squad had a photo session on the pitch with 50 kids mainly from Tehran Japanese School. After the photo session, the kids received a commemorative pennant from the players.

The Japanese team's practice will be mostly held with closed doors after 10th in preparation for the match against Iraq on 13th. The match will take place in neutral Tehran due to Iraq's unstable domestic situation.

Japan stand on top of Group B after seven matches in the final qualifying round. As second-placed Saudi Arabia lost to third-placed Australia 3-2 on 7th and level with Japan with 16 points after eight of their matches, a victory against Iraq on 13th would give a big boost to Japan, who still have a game in hand, for their sixth consecutive World Cup berth and their sixth overall.

Players' Comments

FW INUI Takashi (SD Eibar)
It’s hot and it will be a tough match. The key is who gets knocked out by the heat first. So the best situation for us is to keep the possession and have the opponents run around. Managing the 90 minutes is very important, especially the first half. Once we allow a goal in the first half, it will be tough. So not allowing a goal in the first half is important, even if we don’t score our own. Iraq can play that well in Japan and they are dangerous opponents. How much we can keep the ball will be the key. And we have to deal with this heat. Losing the ball easily will put us in tougher situations, so we need to stay composed.

MF KURATA Shu (Gamba Osaka)
We have some injuries, but we still have three more days where we can do meetings and make sure our game plans. We want to have good discussions with everybody on board and make sure what to do in each given situation. For our last match, I was ready all the time to come on whenever a chance comes around. For this upcoming match, I am ready, too, for either getting a start or coming on later. I want to help my team by staying ready and organising what I can do at this point. One cross ball can get you just like what happened in the Syria match, and it’s what playing at this kind of international stage is all about. I am glad the Syria match was not a real qualifying match. But we need to stay focused more, otherwise a small breakdown can result in a crucial goal.

DF SHOJI Gen (Kashima Antlers)
I didn’t expect that it would be this hot. The humidity is low, so you easily get thirsty. We have to do something about hydrating ourselves even on a day before the match. It’s difficult to stay aggressive for 90 minutes under this heat, so the way we start off is very important. Until the game time we don’t know for sure how the left fullback situation turns out, but I think we can start off more smoothly than the last one. The last match was a great experience. I watched the film of the Syria match with Yoshida and we discussed the adjustments to make. Set-pieces are where Iraq can take advantage of their strength. Especially two centre-backs and the goalkeeper are required to stay focused.

MF HARAGUCHI Genki (Hertha BSC Berlin)
I was expecting this heat, so it’s no problem for me. It may be difficult to press aggressively upfront throughout the 90 minutes, but I think our coach has a plan about it. Even if we make a change to the left fullback, it’s no problem for me because I have played a few matches together with both Nagatomo and Sakai (SAKAI Gotoku). Inui has a totally different styles of dribbling and perspective on football itself, so talking with him has been very inspiring. In the Syria match, there were some opportunities to score and the process of creating chances were good, too. So it’s just finishing it well or not. I wish I could have finished it.


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.


2017-6-13 (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)
Iran / PAS Stadium

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