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HOME > SAMURAI BLUE > NEWS > 【Match Report】SAMURAI BLUE thrash Syria 5-0 to finish top of their group in the FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification with a perfect record and without conceding a single goal


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【Match Report】SAMURAI BLUE thrash Syria 5-0 to finish top of their group in the FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification with a perfect record and without conceding a single goal

12 June 2024

【Match Report】SAMURAI BLUE thrash Syria 5-0 to finish top of their group in the FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification with a perfect record and without conceding a single goal

On Tuesday 11 June, SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) played their final group stage match of the FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification at Edion Peace Wing Hiroshima, where they defeated Syria 5-0 to finish the round with six successive shutout wins and advance to the final round as Group B leaders.

Japan rotated most of their players and continued to experiment with a three-back formation after their 5-0 win over Myanmar on Thursday.

OSAKO Keisuke (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) started in goal with a backline of TOMIYASU Takehiro (Arsenal), ITAKURA Kou (Borussia MG) and MACHIDA Koki (Royale Union Saint-Gilloise). ENDO Wataru (Liverpool FC) and TANAKA Ao (Fortuna Dusseldorf) anchored the midfield, while NAKAMURA Keito (Stade de Reims) and DOAN Ritsu (SC Freiburg), the only two players to make consecutive starts, were deployed on the flanks. KUBO Takefusa (Real Sociedad) and MINAMINO Takumi (AS Monaco) were the attacking midfielders playing under lone striker UEDA Ayase (Feyenoord).

The match began with Japan creating chances down the flanks against Syria's 4-4-2 formation, with Nakamura using his pace to exploit space on the left.

A close opportunity came in the eighth minute, when Nakamura received the ball from Minamino before cutting inside the box to setup the shot of Kubo, but the midfielder’s shot went over the crossbar. The opening goal came in the 13th minute from a similar play, as Nakamura again received a pass from Minamino, ran down the line and sent a cross into the box for Ueda to meet with a towering header.

Japan's second goal came on the counterattack in the 19th minute when Kubo carried the ball up the middle from his own half before slipping a pass to Doan, who unleashed a sharp left-footed shot from the edge of the box that found the back of the net.

Just three minutes later, Kubo’s attempt to setup Minamino inside the box took a deflection off an opposing defender and rolled into the net, giving Japan a three goal lead at halftime.

Although Syria remain second in the group, their defeat to DPR Korea last week leaves them just one point clear of third-placed DPR Korea and desperate for a win against Japan if they are to progress to the next round of qualifying.

The visitors looked to create chances through sharp counterattacks and set-pieces, but the Japanese defenders showed great composure to keep them at bay.

With a three-goal lead at the break, Japan brought on ITO Hiroki (VfB Stuttgart) for Nakamura and switched to a 4-1-2-3 formation. Just after the hour mark, Japan made another change in the 62nd minute, bringing on SOMA Yuki (Casa Pia AC) and KAMADA Daichi (SS Lazio) to replace Kubo and Endo as they switched formation again, this time to a 4-2-3-1.

In the 73rd minute, Soma played the ball through to Kamada, who quickly slipped a through ball to the winger, who drew a foul in the box. Soma stepped up to take the spot-kick himself and calmly slotted it home to extend the lead to 4-0.

Japan made two successive substitutions in the 73rd and 76th minutes, bringing on KAWAMURA Takumu (Sanfrecce Hiroshima) and TANI Kosei (FC Machida Zelvia) from the bench.

The final goal of the match came in the 85th minute when Ito forced a turnover deep in the opposition half, allowing Minamino to curl a shot past the goalkeeper to make it 5-0.

With consecutive 5-0 victories to close the second round, Japan won all six of their matches and scored 24 goals, the most of any team in the second round. Japan also finished the round without conceding a single goal, a feat only achieved by Australia in Group I.

As a result, Syria were eliminated from the group with two wins, one draw and three defeats to finish third on seven points, while DPR Korea beat Myanmar 4-1 to finish second with three wins, three defeats and nine points.

Other qualifiers for the third round include Qatar and Kuwait from Group A, Korea Republic and China PR from Group C, Oman and Kyrgyz Republic from Group D, IR Iran and Uzbekistan from Group E, Iraq and Indonesia from Group F, Jordan and Saudi Arabia from Group G, UAE and Bahrain from Group H and Australia and Palestine from Group I.

The pairings for the third round will be decided by a draw on 27 June in Kuala Lumpur.

Coach and Players' Comments

MORIYASU Hajime, Head Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
In terms of formation, we believe that we can change the way we play according to the characteristics of our players, rather than whether we play three or four at the back. As for today's line-up, I started Doan and Nakamura on the wings with the intention of dominating the opposition from the start in both offence and defence. They both made great defensive contributions, while also showing great aggression to create chances and try to score themselves. We have experimented with this three-back formation in previous matches and the players have shown its effectiveness through these matches against Myanmar and Syria. The players made bold challenges to control possession and create chances, and I believe this will be an option for us in the future.
We played this series of matches when we had already secured our place in the next round, but that didn't really affect our preparation for these matches. The players prepared well in training, not only to win the game, but also to take on challenges that will lead to future growth. It is important that we always give our best, but the players had a painful experience at the Asian Cup, so they know that we need to improve even more if we are to get through the final round and qualify for the World Cup. I don't feel the need to order the players in that respect, and I really appreciate how the players have been giving their best on their own initiative.

DF #22 TOMIYASU Takehiro (Arsenal/England)
I am glad we won. Even though we were experimenting with a new system, we didn't lose our balance when connecting passes from behind, so I felt quite comfortable playing in that formation. We changed the system in the middle of the game, and I think it may have looked like we were playing four at back because of the characteristics of the players, but we were actually switching between three and four at back depending on how our opponents were approaching us, which worked well in the first half, so the defenders were telling each other that we didn't really have to change our approach much because of the change in system. First of all, it is positive that we were able to finish the second round without conceding a goal, and I think the level of competition will go up a few notches in the final round, so we want to prepare well so that we can continue to win when we meet again. Without a doubt, I spend more time playing for my club, so I think we have to do our best to extend our playing time and increase our value as players during that time.

MF/FW #6 ENDO Wataru (Liverpool FC/England)
It was a game we couldn't afford to lose, so this shutout victory gives us a lot of confidence going forward. I am also very happy that we have made it to the final round. We've played in a three-back formation before, so we didn't have any problems with it. I think we took advantage of the mismatches in today's game, especially in attack. The way our full-backs were involved in our goals was exactly what we had planned. It would be great for the team if this formation proved effective against stronger opposition in the next round and these two games have been very encouraging in that respect.

MF/FW #9 UEDA Ayase (Feyenoord/Netherlands)
We went in with a new formation against a side that needed to win, so whether we scored the first goal or not was a big factor. The fact that we scored early allowed us to keep on scoring. We played with the intention of using our full-backs more, so I had worked out before the game what kind of crosses Doan and Nakamura would deliver and what kind of image they would have. In that sense, I feel like we were perfectly on the same page when we scored the first goal. With two attacking midfielders behind me, the area was packed, and I was able to visualise where everyone was located.

MF/FW #10 DOAN Ritsu (SC Freiburg/Germany)
Our opponents fought hard in a must-win situation, but we also played very well in this match. Even though we were experimenting with a new system, we couldn't afford to lose the game, so it feels great to win the game by scoring a lot of goals. (Reflecting on his goal) My teammates created that one-on-one situation for me, so I wanted to show my ability to score from that range. The Asian Cup left a bitter taste in our mouths, so we hope to prove that we are the best team in Asia by winning the final round.

Hector Raul CUPER, Head Coach of Syria National Team
Japan were much more talented than us and we knew it was going to be a tough game against a quality side like Japan, but today was a really big blow. There is no doubt about that. The main reason for the defeat was that the strategy we had prepared did not work, we tried to pressure Japan to win the ball quickly, but they always found a way through to create chances. While we struggled to apply pressure, they took advantage of the space that opened up. We needed to score and win, so we took a lot of risks, and the players gave everything they had, but it didn't work out. This is the end of our World Cup campaign as we will not be able to progress to the next stage. It is a shame that we did not achieve our goal. But the players fought hard, and I am happy with their work.

FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification Round 2

Fixture: SAMURAI BLUE vs Syria National Team
Date: Tue. 11 June 2024, 19:10
Venue: Edion Peace Wing Hiroshima (Hiroshima)
Tournament information

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