【Match Report】SAMURAI BLUE fail to win title after conceding three goals to Tunisia in second half - KIRIN CUP SOCCER 2022
15 June 2022
On Tuesday 14 June, the SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) faced the Tunisia National Team in the KIRIN CUP SOCCER 2022 final held at Panasonic Stadium Suita. After conceding three goals in the second half, Japan fell short from winning the title of the first KIRIN CUP SOCCER held in six years, finishing the four-match series with two wins and two losses.
In their final match of the four-match series held ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, Japan faced Tunisia, who have clinched their sixth World Cup appearances.
With the intention of experimenting with different combinations of players, Head Coach MORIYASU Hajime elected to rotate eight players from their starting line-up against Ghana (Friday 10 June), as YOSHIDA Maya (UC Sampdoria), ITO Hiroki (VfB Stuttgart), and ENDO Wataru (VfB Stuttgart) were the only players returning to the starting eleven. MINAMINO Takumi (Liverpool FC), ITO Junya (KRC Genk), HARAGUCHI Genki (1.FC Union Berlin), NAGATOMO Yuto (FC Tokyo), and ITAKURA Kou (FC Schalke 04) returned to the line-up since the KIRIN CHALLENGE CUP 2022 match against Brazil (Monday 6 June), while ASANO Takuma (VfL Bochum), KAMADA Daichi (Eintracht Frankfurt), and SCHMIDT Daniel (Sint-Truidense VV) made their first start since the Paraguay match (Thursday 2 June).
The match started with Japan applying aggressive pressure from the front line to initiate their attacks, as Ito, Haraguchi, and Nagatomo worked in tandem to create chances from the right side. In the 10th minute, Haraguchi responded to a pass from Ito and delivered a sharp cross from the edge of the box, but the delivery was cleared by the opposing defender.
Tunisia, who made four changes to their line-up following their win over Chile on the 10th, applied quick pressure in midfield to prevent Japan from building their offence, and used the width of the field effectively to create their own chances, actively taking shots from distance using their individual skills.
Despite struggling against the pressure applied by the North African side, Japan started to create chances following the half-hour mark. In the 35th minute, Kamada responded to a cross sent by Ito from the right side but failed to make contact in front of the goal. Ito delivered another good cross in the 39th minute but couldn’t connect with Asano who made a leaping effort to head the ball.
In the 42nd minute, Minamino responded to a lobbing pass delivered by Itakura and slotted the ball into the net, but this play was called off-side.
After failing to capitalise on their chances and finishing the first half 0-0, coach Moriyasu introduced TANAKA Ao (Fortuna Dusseldorf) to start the second half. In the 51st minute, Asano responded to Ito’s cross delivered towards the near side but was denied by the Tunisian defender.
While it was Japan who dominated the first hour of the match, the deadlock was broken by Tunisia in the 55th minute, when Taha Yassine KHENISSI responded to a through ball delivered by Anis Ben SLIMANE and drew a foul inside the Japanese penalty area. Mohamed Ali Ben ROMDHANE converted this spot kick to give the visiting side the lead.
In efforts to change the dynamics of the match, coach Moriyasu sent out MITOMA Kaoru (Royale Union Saint‑Gilloise) and FURUHASHI Kyogo (Celtic FC) in the 60th minute, followed by KUBO Takefusa (RCD Mallorca) and DOAN Ritsu (PSV Eindhoven) in the 71st minute, but it was Tunisia who scored the next goal.
The goal came in the 76th minute, when Youssef MSAKNI chased a long feed launched from his own territory into the Japanese penalty box and delivered a cut back to Ferjani SASSI, who struck a right footed shot into the net.
Trailing by two goals, Japan stepped up their offensive even more, as Kubo and Doan combined in the right side to create chances, while Mitoma made numerous attempts to penetrate the left flank. Despite Kubo’s attempt from a free kick in the 79th minute, Furuhashi’s shot in the 82nd minute, and Mitoma’s effort to convert a cross from Tanaka in the 83rd minute, the home side was kept at bay by the Tunisian defence.
Tunisia scored their third goal in additional time, when Issam JEBALI broke away from the halfway line and fired a spectacular shot that found the back of the net. With this goal being the final nail in the coffin, Japan lost the match 0-3 to finish the tournament in second place. As a result, Japan have finished the four-match series with two wins and two losses.
The third-place match between Chile and Ghana went into penalties after the two sides drew 0-0 in 90 minutes of play, and it was Ghana who prevailed at the end, winning the shootout 3-1 to claim third place.
Ghana saw two of their players being ejected from the match, Alidu SEIDU in the 67th minute and Mubarak WAKASO in the 78th minute but managed to keep the clean sheet to force the match into penalties, where their goalkeeper Abdul MANAF NURUDEEN made two saves to give them the victory.
Meanwhile, a few hours after the match, the final team to be grouped with Japan in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ was decided, as Costa Rica defeated New Zealand 1-0 in the intercontinental play-off held in Doha to qualify for their sixth World Cup. Japan will now face Germany, Spain, and Costa Rica in Group E.
Coaches and Players' Comments
MORIYASU Hajime, Head Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
We entered this home match against Tunisia with the aim of winning the KIRIN CUP to conclude the four-match series, but we regret that we were unable to obtain the result we were looking for. However, I think the players did well. We must accept the fact that we lost 0-3, but it is not easy playing with different players every time. I would like to commend the players for their perseverance in a difficult setting. We have been changing our line-up every match, including the goalkeepers, making it difficult for the players to work in tandem. I think that is what led to the mistakes we made when we conceded the goals, and it is something I have to reflect on. However, as a team, we were able to try out different combinations of players, so even though we are not happy with this result, it has allowed us to raise the overall level of our team.
We fought patiently and managed to create great opportunities in the first half, but failed to capitalise on those chances, which allowed our opponents to gain momentum, so we need to be more critical in the final third. We want to prepare for the World Cup by working hard on our challenges so that we can cope well at the tournament. After the match, I told the players that we must make the most of this disappointment so that we can obtain good results at the World Cup.
The challenge is how to shape our attacks in the final third and to create shooting opportunities. We need to improve further, make fewer mistakes in the build-ups and create more chances in our attacks. We made the match difficult on ourselves by losing possession of the ball and giving the opponents opportunity to counterattack. We need to improve the overall quality of our plays, including our build-ups, to create more shooting opportunities. As for the 4-1-4-1 formation, we have to be able to outperform our opponents when there is a mismatch, and we have to be ready to switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation when the opponents are gaining momentum. We also need to be prepared to make these adjustments, whether on my call or with the players making their own decision on the pitch.
GK #23 SCHMIDT Daniel (Sint-Truidense VV/Belgium)
I was not able to showcase a performance that lived up to the expectations in this fourth match. For the first goal, I think I could have given direction to Yoshida before he slid for the ball, and for the second goal, I should have been ready to come out when the ball took a bounce into the penalty area. We were not on the same page, and I should have been prepared to come out for the ball when Yoshida let the ball pass him. It was clearly a preventable goal. Conceding a goal like that in a 0-1 game can really hurt the team. The third goal was just a great shot taken by the opponent, but I should have been in a better position. The opponents’ counterattacks were a lot sharper than we expected. It was great that I was able to play two of the four-match series, but it was disappointing that I wasn’t able to make the most of this opportunity. These matches have allowed me to identify the areas I lack, so I will continue to work to improve myself as a player.
DF #22 YOSHIDA Maya (UC Sampdoria/Italy)
Tunisia was a very good team. They defended well against us in the first half, and even though we were allowed to possess the ball we couldn’t capitalise on our chances, and we had to be more patient when the game became tighter in the second half. We conceded goals from simple mistakes. It was my mistake, and that penalty kick really ruined the game for us. In this four-match series, we have conceded a lot of goals through our own mistakes, so our task is clear. We need to increase the time we possess the ball in our build-ups and eliminate the mistakes. We cannot afford to concede two goals against a strong team like today. When we make a mistake, we must cover each other to prevent the second and third mistakes from happening. Our opponents were physically superior, very strong on the ball, and applied aggressive pressure against us. I think our second match in the World Cup will be like this, so we must learn from today's loss and work to improve ourselves.
MF/FW #9 KAMADA Daichi (Eintracht Frankfurt/Germany)
This match reminded us that we need to aim for higher standards. As individuals, I think we can improve my individual abilities, and as a team, we need to improve how we possess the ball when the team is struggling and create more time with the ball, no matter who we are up against. The first goal is a crucial factor in the World Cup, and it is important not to concede goals even when things are not going well like today. I think this is something we need to improve as a team. I was anticipating for our chances to counterattack after winning the ball. I feel like I am capable of making runs into spaces other players can’t and find crucial spaces better than others. If I had scored, it would have been a completely different result. I need to increase the number of times I enter the final third and be more critical in those situations. I hope I can look back and say that I am glad I made that mistake in this match rather than at the World Cup. We have tried a lot of different things in these four matches and gained both positive and negative results, so we hope to make the most of these experiences.
MF/FW #15 MITOMA Kaoru (Royale Union Saint‑Gilloise/Belgium)
We simply lacked quality in the final third. We also needed to be on the same page, whether we take our time to apply more numbers upfront or to utilise the width of the field to seek for holes to exploit. We didn’t have enough options in our attacking third and didn’t take enough shots neither. We need to have a solid foundation and a mutual understanding of how we want to attack as a team, or else we will get countered every time we press forward. It didn’t seem like we were all on the same page today, so that is something we need to work on. Even in terms of tactics, we have our aims as a team, but I don't think our aims are detailed enough at all. We are still depending on the abilities of each individual to cope with various situations on the field, so I think we need to discuss and build a more detailed structure with the players and staff.
Jalel KADRI, Head Coach of Tunisia National Team
We came fully prepared to play against Japan. They play fast, and are especially skilful in the flank, but our strength lies in our ability to defend with discipline. Japan are also capable of passing the ball with great pace in the midfield, so we tried not to give them enough space in the midfield, while also anticipating to exploit the space when the match opened up. Japan's transition from defence to offence is very fast, but if they have any weakness, it is in their defence, because they make mistakes when they are placed under pressure, so we were prepared to attack the space behind their defence line, which turned out to be very effective today.
Fri. 10 June/Noevir Stadium Kobe (Hyogo)
Tue. 14 June/Panasonic Stadium Suita (Osaka)
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