Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu made no secret of his aim to lead his team to the quarter-finals before departing for the FIFA World Cup and after Wednesday’s shock win over four-time champions Germany in Group E, that goal now looks more achievable.
Japan have never reached the last eight in their six appearances since making their finals debut in 1998, but came agonizingly close in Russia four years ago.
Goals from Genki Haraguchi and Takashi Inui gave the Samurai Blue a two-goal cushion over heavily fancied Belgium in their last-16 meeting in Rostov-on-Don, putting Japan on the verge of a historic victory, but their inability to close out the game proved costly, allowing Belgium to claw their way back into contention with two goals in five minutes before Nacer Chadli’s injury-time winner capped the most thrilling game of the 2018 finals.
It was a cruel blow that denied Japan their best-ever result on the global stage and it was a loss that threatened to haunt Moriyasu and his team as they prepared for Qatar.
“Not only myself, but the players have carried the pain from Russia for the past four years,” he told the Asian Football Confederation’s official Web site prior to the finals. “If our players can perform to their potential and leave everything on the pitch, I think the results will come. For this to happen, I know I have to manage and take care of the team thoroughly.”
Moriyasu showed his tactical nous to defeat Germany, introducing Arsenal defender Takehiro Tomiyasu at halftime to switch to a back three after seeing his team under constant threat throughout the first half.
The tide eventually turned in Japan’s favor and the manner in which Moriyasu used his five substitutes paid off handsomely, with scorers Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano also coming off the bench to spectacular effect.
Germany’s Ilkay Gundogan had put his side in the lead after 33 minutes.
Japan next face Costa Rica on Sunday knowing that a win would take them a step closer to the knockout rounds, but Moriyasu is unlikely to allow his players to become complacent.
“The first game is very important, but the result of the first game isn’t everything,” Moriyasu told the Web site. “We need to focus on each match as it comes and my job is to manage and stabilize the team so it doesn’t get affected by each result.”
Additional reporting by staff writer
Germany forward Thomas Mueller on Thursday said that his country’s second successive first-round exit from the FIFA World Cup was an “absolute catastrophe,” which teammate Kai Havertz likened to “watching a horror movie.” Germany beat Costa Rica, but Spain’s defeat to Japan meant Germany finished third in Group E behind Spain, with the teams equal on four points and the positions decided only by goal difference. “It is unbelievably bitter for us because our result would have been enough,” Mueller said. “It’s a feeling of powerlessness.” Mueller was part of the 2014 World Cup-winning team and was also in the side who were
Taiwanese-American basketballer Jeremy Lin, who plays for a Chinese team, was fined 10,000 yuan (US$1,400) for “inappropriate remarks” on social media about quarantine facilities ahead of a game, the China Basketball Association said yesterday. Lin, who plays for the Loong Lions Basketball Club, made “inappropriate remarks about quarantine hotel-related facilities” where the team stayed on Wednesday ahead of a game, the association said. It said that “caused adverse effects on the league and the competition area.” The Chinese Communist Party is trying to crush criticism of the human cost and disruption of its “zero COVID-19” strategy, which has confined millions of people to
Taiwan’s top two badminton players, Tai Tzu-ying and Chou Tien-chen, are today to compete at the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals in Bangkok. Tai, who is world No. 3 in women’s singles, is to compete in Group B in the eight-player draw with world No. 5 He Bingjiao of China, and world No. 7 Ratchanok Intanon and world No. 10 Busanan Ongbamrungphan of Thailand. Group A features world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, world No. 2 An Se-young of South Korea, world No. 4 Chen Yufei of China and world No. 18 Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia. Tai, who has struggled at
‘ASIA CAN WIN’: Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu said their victories at the tournament so far against top sides show that Asian teams can win on the world stage Japan erupted in cheers and tears after the national team’s 2-1 win over Spain, with crowds in the early hours of yesterday in the nation packing public viewing areas shrieking with joy as they stunned another global soccer power at the FIFA World Cup. Japan, who had also shocked Germany in their opener in Qatar, finished top of Group E to reach the last 16, a stage where they have faltered three times before. They are to play 2018 runners-up Croatia for a place in the quarter-finals. “Doha Delights Again!” one newspaper headlined its online edition, evoking memories of what the media called