【Match Report】U-20 Japan National Team defeat Saudi Arabia to reach Quarterfinals as group leaders at the AFC U20 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2023
10 March 2023
On Thursday 9 March, the U-20 Japan National Team played their third group stage match of the AFC U20 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2023 at Lokomotiv Stadium, where they faced the U-20 Saudi Arabia National Team.
Japan entered the match in a position to clinch the knockout stage as group leaders with a win or a draw after winning their first two games. They would be eliminated if they lost by more than two goals but would still advance in second place if they lost by one goal. Ahead of the match, Head Coach TOGASHI Koichi said, “We came here in first place, and we intend to finish that way,” and also commented about the starting line-up, “We will choose the players who will give us the best chance of winning.”
For this match, Japan started KIMURA Ryoya (Nihon University) in goal with TANAKA Hayato (Kashiwa Reysol), KIKUCHI Shuta (Shimizu S-Pulse), YASHIKI Yusei (Oita Trinita), and MATSUDA Hayate (Mito HollyHock) forming the defence line. YAMANE Riku (Yokohama F. Marinos) and ABE Taisei (V-Varen Nagasaki) were named as defensive midfielders while MATSUKI Kuryu (FC Tokyo) played the number 10 role. YOKOYAMA Ayumu (Sagan Tosu) and KITANO Sota (Cerezo Osaka) were placed in the flanks with KUMATA Naoki (FC Tokyo) starting as the central forward.
Coach Togashi stated that after finding it difficult in the previous two matches to “get into the game the way we wanted to,” Japan approached this one with the intention of “setting our own tempo from the onset,” according to Matsuki.
Their approach to take the initiative from the start of the match came to fruition in the 15th minute, when the ball was connected through Yamane to Kitano, before Abe delivered the last pass to Matsuki, who calmly controlled the ball inside the box and slotted the ball into the net.
After this goal, Saudi Arabia began to comeback and created several chances that threatened the Japanese goal, but Japan was able to maintain their lead thanks to the superb saves made by their goalie Kimura. As the action intensified, Japan made a system change with the introduction of SUWAMA Kosei (University of Tsukuba) in the 55th minute. Japan’s decision to switch to a three-man defence line was “based on our recognition that we would have to be patient” according to coach Togashi.
Despite conceding the equaliser from a corner kick in the 75th minute, Japan retook their lead from a corner kick of their own. The play came in the 78th minute, from a corner kick taken by Yamane, who later reflected, “We were able to execute it just as we practiced,” was converted by a header of Matsuki.
With their backs against the wall, Saudi Arabia made a late surge in the closing minutes, but led by Kikuchi, Tanaka, and Suwama, Japan managed to maintain their lead to cap off their three game winning streak with a 2-1 victory.
On Sunday 12 December, the U-20 Japan National Team will face the U-20 Jordan National Team, who finished second in Group C, in the quarterfinals, with a win qualifying them for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Indonesia 2023™.
Coach and Players’ Comments
TOGASHI Koichi, Head Coach of U-20 Japan National Team
Having played poorly in the first half of both the first and second matches, we made a conscious effort to enter today’s match full of intensity, which I think allowed us to take the initiative and score first. In the second half, we changed our system and urged the players to be patient, while keeping an eye on the progress of the other matches. The players played really well with high motivation.
GK #1 KIMURA Ryoya (Nihon University)
Throughout the course of this tournament, I have felt the toughness of the competition in Asia. I don't think my performance in this tournament, including the way I played today, was not bad, but I made some mistakes in handling corner kicks and I want to correct them. I would also like to improve on my coaching ability. As a team, I think we have been able to remain positive even after conceding a goal.
DF #3 TANAKA Hayato (Kashiwa Reysol)
In the last two matches we failed to take the initiative in the first half and were unable to carry the game the way we wanted to. That is why we focused on entering the match strong today. We also tried not to take unnecessary risks considering the pitch condition. I feel like we did well in terms of keeping the ball moving, especially in the first half. We were not too worried about the progress of the other matches, as we were just trying to win the game in front of us.
MF #6 YAMANE Riku (Yokohama F. Marinos)
It was great that we managed to score early in the first half. However, we allowed our opponents to increase their ball possession after scoring that goal, and made number of mistakes that led to counterattacks, so that is something we need to reflect and improve on. We knew the conditions to make it through, so we were not worried even after conceding the equaliser. Thanks to the scout report of our technical staff, we were able to exploit the weakness of our opponents when we scored the first goal.
YouTube(AFC):#AFCU20 - Group D | Saudi Arabia (KSA) 1 - 2 Japan (JPN)
AFC U20 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2023
Tournament Dates: Wed. 1 - Sat. 18 March 2023
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