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HOME > National Teams > U-23 2024 > AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™ TOP > NEWS > 【Match Report】U-23 Japan National Team overcame stiff competition to reach the summit and head to the Paris Olympics as Asian champions - AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™


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【Match Report】U-23 Japan National Team overcame stiff competition to reach the summit and head to the Paris Olympics as Asian champions - AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™

04 May 2024

【Match Report】U-23 Japan National Team overcame stiff competition to reach the summit and head to the Paris Olympics as Asian champions - AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™

U-23 Japan National Team took on U-23 Uzbekistan National Team in the final of the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™ at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Friday 3 May.

Head coach OIWA Go has named a starting line-up for the match, replacing three players from the semi-final against U-23 Iraq National Team.

KOKUBO Leo Brian (SL Benfica) started in goal with a backline of SEKINE Hiroki (Kashiwa Reysol), TAKAI Kota (Kawasaki Frontale), KIMURA Seiji (Sagan Tosu), and OHATA Ayumu (Urawa Red Diamonds). FUJITA Joel Chima (Sint-Truidense VV), YAMAMOTO Rihito (Sint-Truidense VV), and MATSUKI Kuryu (FC Tokyo) featured the midfield with SATO Kein (SV Werder Bremen) and FUJIO Shota (FC Machida Zelvia) deployed on the flanks and HOSOYA Mao (Kashiwa Reysol) up top.

Both teams have already qualified for this summer's Olympic Games, but both sides were keen to win the Asian title.

The match began with Uzbekistan taking the initiative from the outset, applying aggressive pressure from their front line as Japan tried to build up their attacks from the back line. Faced with such pressure, Japan struggled to move the ball and created few chances in the first half, as captain Fujita recalled: “We couldn't play the way we wanted to fore most of the first half.”

But the Japanese defence, led by Takai and Kimura, responded tenaciously and gradually gained ground, with Yamamoto later commenting: “The important thing is that we kept them off the scoreboard. On the pitch, we hardly felt like we were giving in to their attacks, so we were able to keep our composure.”

In the second half, Uzbekistan's pressure eased, as Yamamoto recalled, "they were not going to be able to keep up that pace for the whole match", and with a series of substitutions beginning to take effect, Japan gradually took control of the game. And the moment Japan had been waiting for finally arrived in the additional time of the second-half.

The attack began with a forced interception by Takai, and after the ball had been played through Fujita and Araki, YAMADA Fuki (Tokyo Verdy) broke the deadlock with a sharp left-foot shot into the net, as the late substitute later commented: “I knew my left foot had what it takes to decide a game like this.”

There was one final twist for Japan when they conceded a penalty for a handball in the box, but Kokubo produced a spectacular save to keep out the spot kick and give Japan a 1-0 shutout victory. It was Japan's second AFC U-23 Asian Cup title, having won their first in 2016.

Coach's and Players' Comments

OIWA Go, Head Coach of U-23 Japan National Team
It was a really tough match. Although we offered the players various solutions to avoid the pressure of the opponents, we struggled to execute them, partly due to fatigue. I know the players felt the gap between what they wanted to do and the reality, but I want to commend the players for using their own judgement to get through the game. It may not have looked good, and I experienced this when I was at Kashima, but a lot of things can go wrong in the final of a tournament. I hope the players will take the experience and use it to build their confidence going forward.

GK #1 KOKUBO Leo Brian (SL Benfica/Portugal)
We are very happy to have finished with the title after playing so many tough games since our first match against China PR. Today we had a pre-match goalkeeping meeting to discuss where the opposition tends to kick their penalties and the characteristics of the kickers. I wasn't very confident about saving penalties, but everyone came up to me before the spot kick and told me I could definitely save it, including Sekine (who committed the handball). Their encouragement gave me the confidence to go in the direction I thought I should, which led to this result.

MF #8 FUJITA Joel Chima (Sint-Truidense VV/Belgium)
I thought it was a tough game. But we held on as a team and made the most of the few chances we had, which I think is one of our strengths. They played a completely different brand of football to the ones we've played before, and I think that's why it was so difficult for us. I feel like the MVP was won as a team, not as an individual, so I don't want to think of it as something that belongs to me alone, and I want to thank my teammates for their support. Our goal is to win the gold medal at the Olympics, so we want to do our best to build the team for the tournament.

MF #11 YAMADA Fuki (Tokyo Verdy)
I started on the bench, but I came prepared to get results. (Reflecting on the goal) I watched the ball carefully and saw that the opposing defender was reaching for the ball, so I tried to make good contact while aiming between his legs. I'm always confident in my abilities, and I firmly believe that all the hours I put in training does not lie, so I'm going to keep working harder and harder. I will start from scratch again to gain more confidence and produce more results. I am happy with this result, but I also think that this team can get even stronger.

YouTube(AFC):#AFCU23 | Japan 1 - 0 Uzbekistan

AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™

Tournament dates: Mon. 15 April - Fri. 3 May 2024

Group stage
1st match: Tue. 16 April, ◯1-0 vs China PR
2nd match: Sat. 20 April, ◯2-0 vs UAE
3rd match: Mon. 22 April, ●0-1 vs Korea Republic

Knockout stage
Quarterfinals: Thu. 25 April, ◯4-2 vs Qatar
Semi-finals: Tue. 30 April, ◯2-0 vs Iraq
Final: Sat. 4 May, ◯1-0 vs Uzbekistan
*Kick-off time listed in Japan time

Tournament information

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