Japan find form, and Ueda finds the back of the net, to ease past Indonesia into last 16

January 24 – Four-time champions Japan got their Asian Cup campaign back on track with a routine 3-1 victory against Indonesia to clinch second spot in Group D behind Iraq. In the round of 16 they could potentially face South Korea in what would be a blockbuster clash. 

On the back of the defeat by the Iraqis, Japan came into their final group match under some pressure, but they dispelled any doubts with an early penalty conversion by Ayase Ueda.

The Japanese never looked back against a toothless Indonesia to run out easy winners. Takefusa Kubo and Keito Nakamura shone brightly for Japan.

Samurai Blue manager Hajime Moriyasu made wholesale change to starting team from the shock defeat to Iraq, with no less than eight new names stepping on to the Al Thumama pitch. The only survivors from the Iraq starting XI were goalkeeper Zion Suzuki, who complained of receiving racial abuse from fans, captain Wataru Endo and Real Sociedad’s Kubo.

In a 4-2-3-1 formation, Reo Hatate played in an advanced midfield position, with Endo as a screen in front of the backline.

Japan might have had a new and unfamiliar look, but they settled any nerves early on when Amat was found to be guilty of bringing down Ueda in the box following an on-field review by the referee. Ueda made no mistake from the spot to give the four-time champions a 6th-minute lead. It was a poor start for the Indonesians who, needing a result, had to rethink, but there was little sign of forward intent from the Southeast Asians.

Ueda’s two goals calmed Japanese nerves

In a 5-4-1 formation with ADO Den Haag’s Rafael Struick as a lone striker, they struggled to retain the ball at all, with Japan dominating 76.5% of ball possession. At the half-hour mark, Indonesia won their first corner of the match, but it was a scarce moment of potential danger in the Japanese box.

Following a pinball moment at the Indonesian end, Kubo and Seiya Maikuma combined in a free-flowing move to set up Nakamura, whose finish ricocheted off the post. It was to be the last major opportunity of a half that Japan controlled from start to finish.

The 2011 champions struck again early after the restart, Ueda at the end of a team move to tap in a second in the 52nd minute. Japan were rampant, but Ritsu Doan spurned a hat-trick of chances, first chipping wide, then seeing his header cleared off the line, and finally curling his attempt wide.

Doan was among five Japanese players substituted in the course of the second half, with Takumi Minamino, Junya Ito, Daizen Maeda, Kaishu Sano and Tsuyoshi Wanatabe coming on.

It was all academic as a weak Indonesia never troubled the Japanese, who got a third when the ball came off Indonesian defender Justin Hubner after Ueda got the better of three defenders in the 88th minute. In stoppage time, Indonesia got a consolation goal as Sandy Walsh slotted home from close range, Japan conceding for the fifth time in the group stages. That defensive frailty will be a concern going into the knockout stages.

As runners-up behind Iraq, who defeated Vietnam 3-2 to top the group on nine points, Japan will play the winner of Group E, which could be South Korea. On Thursday, Jurgen Klinsmann’s Koreans will play Malaysia in a match the Taegeuk Warriors are expected to win. They are joint-top of their group alongside Jordan.

Japan last met South Korea in the Asian Cup in 2011, winning the semi-final encounter on penalties at Doha’s Al-Gharafa Stadium. They went on to claim their fourth continental crown. History suggests then that facing the Koreans might do the Japanese well.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1711665795labto1711665795ofdlr1711665795owedi1711665795sni@i1711665795tnuk.1711665795ardni1711665795mas1711665795




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