【Match Report】U-20 Japan National Team start off AFC U20 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2023 with a come-from-behind victory over China PR
04 March 2023
On Friday 3 March, the U-20 Japan National Team played their first group match of the AFC U20 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2023 at JAR Stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where they faced the U-20 China PR National Team.
For this match, Head Coach TOGASHI Koichi named KIMURA Ryoya (Nihon University) in goal with a four-man defence line formed by TANAKA Hayato (Kashiwa Reysol), MATSUDA Hayate (Mito HollyHock), YASHIKI Yusei (Oita Trinita), and TAKAI Kota (Kawasaki Frontale). YAMANE Riku (Yokohama F. Marinos), MATSUKI Kuryu (FC Tokyo), YOKOYAMA Ayumu (Sagan Tosu), and KODA Hidemasa (Nagoya Grampus) featured the midfield, with KITANO Sota (Cerezo Osaka) positioned beneath the lone striker SAKAMOTO Isa (Fagiano Okayama).
The match started with China PR showing great aggression and forcing Japan to play passively, which led to an own goal from a corner kick that ended up in the Japanese goal in the sixth minute. Gifted with a goal, China PR switched to a defensive strategy, laying a compact block in their own territory to anticipate for their chances to counterattack.
Coach Togashi remained calm despite the unfortunate start to the game, as he later reflected, “We prepared ourselves for the worst case scenario,” while Matsuki, who was given the armband for this match, also recalled, "We weren’t worried at all.”
With China PR dropping back, the match progressed with Japan dominating the ball possession, but remained cautious of the opposition’s counterattacks, as coach Togashi mentioned, “We couldn’t afford to concede the second goal.”
“Our offence lacked speed, which allowed our opponents to maintain a compact defence,” said coach Togashi, explaining the reasoning behind his second-half substitutions, which included the introductions of EINAGA Takatora (Kawasaki Frontale), SANO Kodai (Fagiano Okayama), and KUMATA Naoki (FC Tokyo) in the 46th, 55th, and 56th minutes, respectively.
This series of substitutions came to fruition in the 66th minute, when Kumata connected with a cross sent by Sano to score the equaliser with a header. Four minutes later, Kumata once again responded to Sano’s cross, attempting to strike a bicycle kick. Although Kumata failed to make good contact with the ball, the striker managed to control the loose ball and slot the ball into the Chinese goal, which turned out to be the decisive goal that gave Japan the victory.
The U-20 Japan National Team will now face the U-20 Kyrgyz Republic National Team on Monday 6 March.
Coach and Players’ Comments
TOGASHI Koichi, Head Coach of U-20 Japan National Team
I think it was a match where the Japanese offence worked like a body blow. We were able to carry the match with good risk management. There is a significant difference between one and three points, so I'm happy we prevailed. We have 23 players, and we can play them in a variety of different strategies. For the next match, we will analyse Kyrgyz Republic carefully and find ways to play to our strengths.
MF #7 MATSUKI Kuryu (FC Tokyo)
We reassured each other before the game not to worry too much even when we give up the lead, which helped us keep our composure after conceding the first goal. The players who came off the bench really made an impact that led to the equaliser and the go-ahead goal. Winning is the most important thing, so we will continue to do our best to prepare ourselves ahead of our next match against Kyrgyz Republic.
MF #8 SANO Kodai (Fagiano Okayama)
China PR is a strong defensive team and I watched the match wondering how to break them down. I thought it would be effective to penetrate the spaces behind their defence line and to deliver early crosses, especially towards the far-side, where they tend to watch the ball. We were confident in our abilities, so we weren’t feeling rushed at all.
FW #18 KUMATA Naoki (FC Tokyo)
We conceded an early goal from a set-piece which made this a very difficult match. In a tournament like this, opponents tend to drop back and lay a block after taking an early lead. We were able to create chances from the flanks, so I knew it was just a matter of whether or not we can finish them in the final third. Sano delivered a great cross and I was well prepared to convert it.
YouTube(AFC):#AFCU20 - Group D | Japan (JPN) 2-1 China PR (CHN)
AFC U20 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2023
Tournament Dates: Wed. 1 - Sat. 18 March 2023
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