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HOME > SAMURAI BLUE 2023 > NEWS > Winning through respect - Always have respect Vol.127


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Winning through respect - Always have respect Vol.127

22 December 2023

Winning through respect - Always have respect Vol.127

After back-to-back victories over Germany and Turkey in September, followed by wins over Canada and Tunisia in October, the reputation of the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team), led by head coach MORIYASU Hajime, is growing fast.

It should be noted that all of Japan's international friendlies since June have been against countries outside of Asia, but the team still managed to win six in a row, scoring a total of 24 goals in the process, and I think “respect” was a big part of their success.

It was thought that the most difficult of the six matches would be the away game against Germany at Wolfsburg in September. The SAMURAI BLUE were up against a global powerhouse with four FIFA World Cup™ titles to its name. This was an opponent that Japan surprised the world with a 2-1 comeback win at last year's World Cup, and many would have thought that Germany would not let their guard down for the second match in a row.

In the match, however, despite having less control of the ball possession, Japan outshot Germany 14-11 and held an 11-3 advantage in shots on target en route to a 4-1 victory. Japan played well throughout the entire game, and I think the scoreline reflected their performance.

In this match, the players of SAMURAI BLUE were unfazed to play head-to-head against a world powerhouse like Germany, challenging them at both ends to showcase the style of football they aspire to play. They were fully aware of what their opponents were capable of, but the fact that they were still able to play aggressively was a result of their “respect” for themselves.

The strength of today's SAMURAI BLUE, however, lies not only in their respect for themselves - their “self-confidence” - but also in their respect for their opponents.

Japan dominated possession against Tunisia in Kobe on 17 October but were unable to break down their opponents' defence and were held scoreless for long periods. But despite their struggles to create clear-cut chances, the players remained undaunted and continued to do what was asked of them, with quick transitions after losing possession and their collective pursuit of the ball never wavering. And at last, they took advantage of an opportunity to open the scoring just before the end of the first half.

I believe it was also the power of “respect” that carried the team through this match. FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ participants Tunisia are a formidable side who beat Japan 3-0 in their last meeting last year. Aware of their opponents' strength, Japan knew they had to be at the top of their game for the full 90 minutes in order to secure victory. Otherwise, they might have lost their concentration at some point in the first half and conceded a goal on a counter-attack.

This year, the SAMURAI BLUE played eight matches in four activities against teams from around the world as they began to build a new team under coach Moriyasu and will start their competition in Asia from November.

If they proceed through the second round of the FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification, they will play in the final round of the World Cup qualifiers in September 2024. The team will also take part in the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ in January and February, where they will be seeking their fifth overall title and first in 13 years.

Matches played in Asia present many challenges, including long travels, time differences, climates and varying pitch conditions. When playing in such circumstances, the SAMURAI BLUE's greatest strength is not only the team play they have trained for, the experience they have gained as a team and as individuals, or their high level of technique. It is their mentality to do their best and give their all, without forgetting to respect their opponents and themselves, no matter who they are playing against.

This mentality has been in place since the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, when the team was led by head coach OKADA Takeshi, and has now become a tradition for the SAMURAI BLUE. In fact, the mentality seems to have become much more solid under coach Moriyasu, and I believe it has become SAMURAI BLUE's greatest strength in their quest to win the World Cup.

Written by OSUMI Yoshiyuki (Football Journalist)

*This article was originally posted on the Japan Football Association Newsletter, “JFAnews,” November 2023 edition.

Japan Football Association Newsletter “JFAnews”

The Japan Football Association Newsletter “JFAnews” contains all the information on the Japan National Team, events hosted by JFA, tournament results, and team information throughout the nation. The official monthly magazine is a must read for coaches, referees, and all members of the football family.

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