Select year/age category

Select from the following categories.

  • 2024
  • 2023
  • 2022
  • 2021
  • 2020
  • 2019
  • 2018
  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • U-24
  • U-23
  • U-22
  • U-21
  • U-20
  • U-19
  • U-18
  • U-17
  • U-16
  • U-15
  • University
  • futsal
  • U-25 futsal
  • U-23 futsal
  • U-20 futsal
  • U-19 futsal
  • U-18 futsal
  • futsal
  • U-18 futsal
  • esports / soccer
HOME > SAMURAI BLUE > ASIAN QUALIFIERS - ROAD TO RUSSIA [9/5] TOP > NEWS > SAMURAI BLUE fall to Saudi Arabia in front of packed away crowd - Asian Final Qualifiers (Road to Russia)


  │ List

SAMURAI BLUE fall to Saudi Arabia in front of packed away crowd - Asian Final Qualifiers (Road to Russia)

06 September 2017

SAMURAI BLUE fall to Saudi Arabia in front of packed away crowd - Asian Final Qualifiers (Road to Russia)

SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) squared off against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday 5 September in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Asian Qualifiers Final Round. In this away game held in Jeddah, Japan lost 1-0 by conceding a goal in the 63rd minute.

Japan’s Asian Qualifiers (Road to Russia) and their battle for a place in the World Cup Russia had come to an end with this match. The Samurai squad had an overall record of 6 wins, 2 losses and 2 draws in Group B and finished their qualifiers with 20 points.

After clinching their sixth straight World Cup berth and their sixth overall appearance with a win over Australia on last Thursday, Japan faced Saudi Arabia on four-day rest in Jeddah, where the temperatures were still above 30°C despite the local kick-off time at 20:30. The humidity was quite high as well, and the Japanese players were drenched in sweat before the game started and even breathing was not easy either. Moreover, the game was played in a complete away atmosphere where the gigantic stadium was filled to overflowing with spectators of 62,165 cheering for their national team who can secure a place in the World Cup with a win over Japan.

Coach Vahid HALILHODZIC regarded this away match as ‘an important test match for growth ahead of the World Cup’. Samurai boss has replaced four players from the starting line-ups of Australia game and employed a 4-3-3 formation for this match. Three players in midfield were YAMAGUCHI Hotaru (Cerezo Osaka) in an anchor position and SHIBASAKI Gaku (Getafe CF), who was named in the starting XI of the national squad for the first time in two years, and IDEGUCHI Yosuke (Gamba Osaka) as wide midfielders playing in front of Yamaguchi. Three forward players from right to left were HONDA Keisuke (CF Pachuca), OKAZAKI Shinji (Leicester City) and HARAGUCHI Genki (Hertha BSC Berlin).

From the beginning of the match, Saudi Arabia took the initiative being supported by the huge crowd cheering for their home team, while Japan waited patiently for their chance to strike back. Despite being on the back foot, Japan had their stretches in the game where they fashioned few promising chances. In the 13th minute, after receiving a pass from Haraguchi on the left flank, Ideguchi attempted a shot in front of the goal. Furthermore, another scoring opportunity came after 32 minutes when defender SHOJI Gen (Kashima Antlers) met Shibasaki’s right corner with a powerful header, but the opposing defender cleared right in front of the goal line to deny Japan from firing in the opener.

Still another threatening moment came from a free kick on 40 minutes, where Yamaguchi got to the loose fall first and fired a volley directly toward the goal, but denied by a fine save from the opposing goalkeeper. Japan’s menacing attack continued after halftime. In the 49th minute, a right-corner delivery from Shibasaki was met by defender YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC) with a header and defender SAKAI Hiroki (Olympique de Marseille) slid to tap in a deflection, but once again tenacious defending from the home side did not allow the Samurai warriors to strike first.

While the Halilhodzic side were failing to take advantage of their scoring opportunities, their opponents orchestrated an excellent chance on the counter in the 55th minute. Second-half substitute FHAD ALMUWALLAD exploited the space behind the backline and found himself in a one-on-one situation with the Japanese goalkeeper KAWASHIMA Eiji (Football Club de Metz). However, his brilliant save quashed the golden opportunity for Saudi Arabia to open the scoring.

Despite the lack of end product from the hosts, this chance had uplifted the home crowd and the stadium was soon to be filled with roaring cheers from the stands. Then, it was almost inevitable that this deadlock was to be broken in favour of the Middle Eastern side. In the 63rd minute, Saudi Arabia scored a much-awaited goal after a lofted ball was superbly fired into the Japanese net by Fhad Almuwallad with his right foot.

The excitement from the home fans was reaching its climactic height after the opener, but Japan could not end their Asian campaign here and subbed in forward SUGIMOTO Kenyu (Cerezo Osaka) right after they conceded the goal in the 67th minute. Furthermore, forward KUBO Yuya (KAA Gent) was brought on after 80 minutes and the Japanese squad alter its formation to a more attacking 4-2-3-1. In a last-ditch effort to equalise the game, Japan employed a power play and sent long balls inside the attacking third of the pitch. Then, the last chance came in the just before the final whistle, when Sakai Hiroki headed down a long ball for onrushing Kubo. However, his right-footed attempt failed to hit the target for the Japanese squad to level the match.

Despite facing adverse circumstances of an away encounter, Japan were relentless in their pursuit for goals until the end of the match. However, they were unable to find to the back of the net and lost the match 1-0. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia clinched the second spot in Group B and secured a place in the World Cup.

Match Report

Japan did not prevail in the last match of the qualifiers to end their Asian campaign on a high note, but still succeeded in topping Group B after fighting through the tough battles of final qualifiers for over a year. The Samurai squad will look to strengthen the team further for World Cup Russia by participating in the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2017 on 6 October (Fri.) at Toyota Stadium and 10 October (Tue.) at Nissan Stadium.


Vahid HALILHODZIC, Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
First of all, I would like to congratulate Saudi Arabia for winning the match and qualifying for the World Cup. However, I wished we finished the qualifiers with a win and it is regrettable that it did not end the way I hoped for. Nonetheless, I do not believe that our performance deserved a loss as well. We created many scoring chances, but were simply not clinical enough on our finishes. Furthermore, fatigue was evident from seeing the lack of tenacity in one-on-one battles compared to the match against Australia and the absence of dynamism in our attacks as well. Yet, this team still have a room for growth. Prior to the World Cup, I would like to improve the team further.

DF #22 YOSHIDA Maya (Southampton FC)
The temperature and humidity were quite high, and we had a difficult time in raising our intensity to high levels, but still managed to play with patience. They capitalised on one of their chances, when we were struggling to score. (Looking back at the qualifiers) in general, we were able to defend collectively as well as solidly. However, once we allowed the opponents to enter inside the penalty area, then the chances of conceding a goal increased significantly. We might need to make a more detailed assessment of what actually happened towards the end of those plays, but I believe that we could have stopped their advances prior to entering the box more consistently throughout the qualifiers.

MF #16 YAMAGUCHI Hotaru (Cerezo Osaka)
We had a difficult time in keeping the opponents checked at all times, and they used those free players well to create chances. In the three-midfield formation, against the team like Saudi Arabia where they will look for chances to attack from the centre, there will be occasions where the opponents will succeed in alluring me away from the deep anchor position just like the Saudis did when we conceded the goal today. I believe it is crucial that we precisely know who is responsible for covering that open space before the next match.

FW #4 HONDA Keisuke (CF Pachuca)
We were certainly looking to win the match, but it was disappointing that we didn’t get the result we were hoping for. I was been told in advance that I would be substituted after halftime. I honestly felt that we wanted to win this game as a team. It was undoubtedly a disappointing result. I hoped that I got more involved in the plays that could influence the outcome of the match and regretted that I failed to create decisive scoring chances for my team as well.

FW #9 OKAZAKI Shinji(Leicester City)
The game proceeded as we planned from the beginning of the match. However, we failed to capitalise on our chances and the quality of attacking plays came down in the midst of the game partly due to the fatigue from hot weather. Personally, I wished I scored a goal for my team. Being unable to do so, I could not help out my team either. Despite the hot weather, I had three chances to score and converting those chances was my top priority as well.

TASHIMA Kohzo, President of Japan Football Association
I believe that this match had given the team a great opportunity to test how to approach an away game. It would have been ideal if the team could have pulled off a comeback win or forced a draw. However, the players had performed well today and I would like to praise them for topping the group as well. The qualifiers have ended today, but the survival race for the final squad to play for the World Cup will soon begin with a series of friendly matches in October and November and continue as they participate in the EAFF E-1 Football Championship in December.


Sun. 27 August PM Training 
Mon. 28 August PM Training *closed‐door
Tue. 29 August PM Training *closed‐door
Wed. 30 August PM Official Conference, Official Training *closed‐door
Thu. 31 August 2-0 ASIAN QUALIFIERS (Road to Russia)
vs Australia National Team
(Saitama Stadium 2002)
Fri. 1 September AM Training 
Sat. 2 September PM Training 
Sun. 3 September PM Training *closed‐door
Mon. 4 September TBC Official Conference, Official Training *closed‐door
Tue. 5 September 0-1 ASIAN QUALIFIERS (Road to Russia)
vs Saudi Arabia National Team
(King Abdullah Sports City)

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


2017-9-5 (Thu.) 20:30 kick off (estimated time)
[JST 26:30 kick off (estimated time)]
Saudi Arabia National Team vs SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
Saudi Arabia/King Abdullah Sports City
Live on TV Asahi group and NHK-BS1

More Information

Ticket Information (Japanese version only)

  │ List
The JFA Ideal

Through football, we realise the full benefits that sports can bring to our lives
the soundness of our bodies, the expansion of our minds,
and the enrichment of our societies.

The JFA Ideal, Vision, Values