January 31 – Japan stuck to the script to seal their spot in the quarter finals of the Asian Cup easing past Bahrain to put a shaky looking second place finish in the group stage behind them.
The cobwebs have been dusted from the four times Asian Cup champions, with Hajime Moriyasu’s looking to have found form at the crucial time.
“I think todays result was because of effort in training. We had six days to rest and train, and that showed against Bahrain,” said Moriyasu.
“We looked back at ourselves and fixed a few things. We played better today and I know we have even more potential to improve.
“I think we defended much better. Of course we weren’t perfect and we can improve in the next matches. If we do play Iran we need to learn from our mistakes to negate their impressive attackers.”
The manager was questioned on his tactics for the match, which shifted significantly as the game progressed.
“The players made decisions for themselves on the pitch. We had to defend correctly then tried to play the ball down the wings. When Bahrain produced a good block in the middle we were quick to strike again,” he said.
“We tried to work on shooting from long range in training, and that is what created the chance for the first goal.
“The reason why our style changed in the second half is because we had the lead. They pushed forward more which created loads of space for us. With the substitutes we tried to transition the play from defence to offensive as quickly as possible hence why I made the best substitutions for that.”
Reports broke in Japan earlier today of Japan and Reims winger Junya Ito’s alleged involvement in a case of sexual assault. The player was still involved in the squad, but watched from the bench as his team won comfortably.
“We are aware of the article. I think we will try to confirm the facts with the player. But until then I would like to refrain from any actions,” said Moriyasu.
Captain Wataru Endo, whose composed performance in midfield won him the man of the match accolade, said: “It was another tough match but I’m happy. We won comfortably and created a good block in defence.
“Every opponent looks to find our weak points and expose us, but I know we have to make this right. If we concentrate 100% we can win the games coming up.
“My condition is getting better and better. I am captain of the team and need to set an example. Every player wants to play and they all need to play to their potential in order to be selected.”
Liverpool FC signed Endo in the summer of 2023, with outbound Jurgen Klopp playing a large role in securing the player’s signature. The German, who has been in charge of Liverpool since 2015, announced he will be leaving the club at the end of the current season.
“Of course it was big news and I was saddened by it. It hasn’t affected my performance, though. All my concentration is on Japan and winning this trophy and I want to bring it back with me to Liverpool,” said Endo.
Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, at email@example.com