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HOME > SAMURAI BLUE > FIFA World Cup 26™ TOP > FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification - Round 2 TOP > FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification - Round 2 > NEWS > 【Match Report】Tanaka’s goal helps SAMURAI BLUE to third straight win in the FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification


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【Match Report】Tanaka’s goal helps SAMURAI BLUE to third straight win in the FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification

22 March 2024

【Match Report】Tanaka’s goal helps SAMURAI BLUE to third straight win in the FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification

SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team) played their third match in the second round of the FIFA World Cup 26™ / AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ Preliminary Joint Qualification on Thursday 21 March at Japan National Stadium in Tokyo, where they defeated DPR Korea 1-0.

In their first official match since the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™, head coach MORIYASU Hajime named SUZUKI Zion (Sint-Truidense VV) as his starting goalkeeper, with SUGAWARA Yukinari (AZ Alkmaar), ITAKURA Kou (Borussia MG), MACHIDA Koki (Royale Union Saint-Gilloise) and ITO Hiroki (VfB Stuttgart) in the backline. MORITA Hidemasa (Sporting CP) and TANAKA Ao (Fortuna Düsseldorf) anchored the midfield, while MAEDA Daizen (Celtic FC) and DOAN Ritsu (SC Freiburg) were deployed on the flanks. MINAMINO Takumi (AS Monaco) started at number 10, while UEDA Ayase (Feyenoord) played as a lone striker.

Japan opened the scoring in the second minute when Maeda persistently chased down a long pass from Ito, allowing Ueda to collect the ball in the corner and set up Tanaka's cross. Although Doan's attempt to set up Minamino's shot wasn't successful, Doan responded well to collect the loose ball and cut it back to Tanaka, who calmly slotted the ball into the net to give Japan an early lead.

A minute later, Maeda forced a turnover at the other end and carried the ball into the box before sending a shot wide of the goal. In the 11th minute, Morita fired a shot from inside the area, followed by Doan in the 13th minute, but both efforts were off target. Japan had a golden opportunity in the 43rd minute when Minamino dribbled up the pitch from his own half and played a well-timed through ball to setup a one-on-one situation for Doan, but the midfielder's shot was saved by the goalkeeper. Despite failing to extend their lead, Japan demonstrated their dominance over DPR Korea, holding them to zero shots in the first half and taking a 1-0 lead into the break.

Making good use of their substitutes, DPR Korea took control of the game from the start of the second half as the visitors began to pick up the pace and create chances in the attacking third. In the 47th minute, HAN KWANG SONG took a long pass from his goalkeeper KANG JU HYOK and fired a shot that hit the post, allowing PAEK CHUNG SONG to pounce on the rebound. However, the goal was disallowed for a foul committed by a DPR Korea player inside the box.

Despite the disallowed equaliser, DPR Korea seemed to be gaining momentum from the play as they began to threaten the Japanese goal with a series of chances, including a header from RI IL SONG and a long-range shot from KANG KUK CHOL. KIM KUK JIN also made his presence felt after coming off the bench in the 67th minute.

In an attempt to counter their opponents' aggression, Japan brought on ASANO Takuma (VfL Bochum), HASHIOKA Daiki (Luton Town FC) and TANIGUCHI Shogo (Al-Rayyan SC) to change their system from a four-back to a three-back formation, allowing the defence to hold their opponents at bay while giving the attackers more opportunities to strike on the counter.

However, after both sides fell short from finding the back of the net, the game ended 1-0, giving Japan their third consecutive victory in the qualifier. As a result, Japan remain in first place of Group B, while Syria, who drew 1-1 away to Myanmar, are now second on four points with a win, a draw and a defeat. DPR Korea dropped to third with a win and two losses, while Myanmar, who picked up their first point, are fourth with a draw and two defeats.

Japan could clinch a top-two finish in the group with their next match and book their place in the third qualifying round without having to wait for their two matches in June (against Myanmar on 6 June and Syria on 11 June).

The next match was scheduled to be played away to DPR Korea in Pyongyang on Tuesday 26 March, but the match was cancelled at the request of DPR Korea. The team are now awaiting a decision from FIFA and the AFC on how to proceed.

Coaches and Players' Comments

MORIYASU Hajime, Head Coach of SAMURAI BLUE (Japan National Team)
I think it was very important that we scored early in the game. The players fought aggressively from the start, which led to this result. Although we struggled against their simple but powerful approach, especially in the second half, the players defended tenaciously and tried to turn the tide back in our favour. I think it was the players' desire to win and their tenacity that led to this victory. After the disappointment of the Asian Cup, we were able to fight through the tougher parts of the game and anticipate our chances to counter. I also thought the players showed a lot of confidence in those tougher periods. We will continue to develop so that we can score more goals and get better results in these types of matches in the future. (On the match on the 26th) We just have to prepare as best we can for the decision that will be made. We don't know what the result will be, but we'll make sure the players who are tired can rest and try to use the time we have to get them in good shape for the next game.

MF/FW #6 ENDO Wataru (Liverpool FC/England)
It is great that we were able to keep a clean sheet today, despite changing our system during the game. We have come up with many different options over the past year, and I think the decision to choose which option will become even more important for us to win in the future. In that sense, I think the coach made a great decision and as a team I think every player was able to read the game carefully and see what we needed to do as a team and as individuals. As we expected, they were very organised in terms of how they handled one-on-one situations and played with great intensity right to the end. I heard they had a lot of time to prepare, and they really showed their quality in this match. I think it is important that we prepare for the next game as if we were playing, so we will recover first and prepare well for the next game.

MF/FW #10 DOAN Ritsu (SC Freiburg/Germany)
I am relatively happy with the way we played in the first half, including the way we entered the game. We knew that our opponents were going to be aggressive, so I think we did well to evade the pressure while creating our own chances. I could have made the second half so much easier if I had converted the chances I was given in the first half, so that is something I regret in this match. The fact that we were able to change our system to a five-back formation when our opponents increased their intensity and played more long balls in the second half made the game so much easier, which is a positive thing to take away. However, I think there were moments when we could have avoided the pressure of the opposition if we had played more simply, so I think today's game had both good and bad points.

MF/FW #11 MAEDA Daizen (Celtic FC/Scotland)
I am happy that we got a win. We knew it was going to be a tough game and that a win would give us a huge advantage going forward. We also knew they were going to play with a lot of aggression, so we didn't want to back down, especially knowing how we played in the Asian Cup. So, in that sense, I am happy with the way we came out with a lot of aggression from the start and scored the opening goal in the first few minutes. In the second half, we may have let them get the better of us, but I am just relieved that we were able to keep a clean sheet and win the game today.

MF/FW #17 TANAKA Ao (Fortuna Dusseldorf/Germany)
It was a difficult game to start with, but we may have made it even harder for ourselves. But at the end of the day, the important thing is that we won. It is a great feeling to be able to reflect on our game and look for improvements after winning at home. (Reflecting on the goal) I had a feeling that Doan might cut the ball back to me after I crossed. Luckily, the space was wide open, and I just had to make good contact with the ball. We expect the games to get tougher from now on, but I think we still have a lot of room for improvement, so we hope to use these games to strive for higher standards.

MF/FW #19 OGAWA Koki (NEC Nijmegen/Netherlands)
The role of a substitute is very different to that of a starter, and the demands on a striker in a game like this were difficult in many ways. I went into the game focused on transition, defence, posting up and shooting when I had the chance. I felt like I was doing well in some areas, but I also felt like I had a lot of work to do. It was a pleasure to play on this wonderful stage, a place where every player dreams of playing. It made me want to play here even more and for a long time. I want to score on this stage next time.

SIN Yong-nam, Head Coach of DPR Korea National Team
Both teams came with high expectations, and I thought it was a great game. It was a disappointing result for us, but you cannot win every time in football. We want to use today's experience to play better next time. We wanted to get a good result in front of our compatriots, but it didn't happen and we're very sorry. We were inspired by the support of those who said they would run with us and by the cries of their hearts. Your support has touched our hearts. With that in mind, we hope to do better in the games to come.

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

Fixture: SAMURAI BLUE vs DPR Korea National Team
Date: Thu. 21 March 2024, 19:20
Venue: Japan National Stadium (Tokyo)
Tournament information

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