January 9 – Japan’s captain Maya Yoshida has called on Japan to forget about disappointment four years ago and deal with the pressure at the 2019 Asian Cup. The Samurai Blue kick off their campaign against Turkmenistan in Group F.
Four years ago Japan crashed out of the Asian Cup in the quarter-finals, an abject disappointment for the four-time champions. They were eliminated in 2015 by Iraq, but in the United Arab Emirates the Japanese want to bounce back.
“That was a major disappointment for us and the team is determined to win the title again,” said Yoshida. “I have confidence in all the players and if we play with pride and responsibility, I am optimistic of our chances.”
“The first order of business will be to make sure we get out of our group. We have to grow into the tournament step by step. The new players have a responsibility to build on what previous Japan teams have done and fight with pride to add a new chapter in our history. It’s a big tournament for us.”
“After the World Cup last year, (the) expectation is really high,” said the Southampton central defender who has become a fan favourite on England’s South coast. “But unlike the World Cup the expectation on Japan is different at an Asian Cup, where we are expected to win. That brings its own pressure obviously and we need to be able to cope with that and not freeze up.”
Japan open their campaign against Turkmenistan, but will have been warned by previous surprise results in the tournament, including Jordan defeating defending champions Australia, India crushing Thailand 4-1 and the Philippines giving South Korea a scare.
“This has been a tournament of surprises so far with Australia (1-0 to Jordan) and Thailand losing (4-1 to India), and Korea Republic scoring a 1-0 win over Philippines. The results prove just how hard opening matches can be and our target will be simple against Turkmenistan – just a win,” said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu.
Moriyasu took over Japan after the World Cup in Russia and is leading a transitional team at these finals. Japan have introduced young players in the team as a number of veterans retired last summer. The coach left the likes of Dortmund playmaker Shinji Kagawa and Leicester striker Shinji Okazaki out of the squad.
“The new players have a responsibility to build on what previous Japan teams have done and fight with pride to add a new chapter in our history,” said Yoshida. “It’s a big tournament for us.”
Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1553074205labto1553074205ofdlr1553074205owedi1553074205sni@o1553074205fni1553074205