Abu Dhabi: Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu is chasing history. He is at the cusp of becoming the first man to win the Asian Cup both as a player and coach, if his side goes on to win their fifth title beating Qatar on Friday at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. The action starts at 6pm.
Moriyasu, who lifted the title in 1992 as a player, said he is all focused on the task at hand and individual success was not at all his priority.
“Tomorrow as a team we want to win the title,” he said. “I’m not interested what it means to me individually. I want to celebrate the title with the team and make sure we are at the upmost preparation with today’s training as well.”
Moriyasu rates opponents Qatar as fierce competitors. The Samurai Blue will have to be wary of Qatari striker Almoez Ali, who has scored eight goals and is currently at level with Iran’s Ali Daei (in 1996) as top scorer in a single tournament. Four of his assists have come from Akram Hassan Afif and the duo will be the main thorn in Japan’s side.
Qatar have also kept a clean sheet in every game so far this tournament and it will be a test for Japan’s strike force led by Osako Yuya to get past goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.
“It will be a very tough match and we know they are very strong opponents,” said Moriyasu, whose side defeated Iran 3-0 in the semis for a place in the summit clash.
“We have already played six matches. It’s one more that we need to do. We are doing our best preparation so that our players can have the best performance tomorrow on the field.
Qatar’s success also has a lot to do with their Spanish coach Felix Sanchez, who has been with the team for over six years starting with the Under-19s. However, Moriyasu is not perturbed and is backing on his team’s ability to adapt to the situation according to the strengths of the opponents.
“The players can now read the game and play as a unit,” said the 56-year-old. “Looking back, we played different opponents, sometimes we held the ball and other times we played freely. I don’t know how the game will pan out but we’ll play our own strategy and to our strength.”
Japan’s star Maya Yoshida was also optimistic about his side’s chances and felt that the success would do a world of good to Japan football: “As coach said we have played six games in a short period of time. We had less day but Qatar had one day less than us to prepare and it will be tougher for them. So no excuses on our side and we will be trying to be in the best condition for the match tomorrow.
“From 2011 until now more players are playing abroad, especially in Europe. We have a younger team and mentally we have been developing at it. This is a great asset for the team and Japan football. It seems that the young players are really enjoying the atmosphere. The game against Iran was like away to us and I felt really proud of the team.”
Qatar coach Sanchez speaking about his team’s chances said: “We have one day less than Japan to play the most important game. At this stage we are playing against a great side and they are playing fantastic tournament. Looking forward to a good last match in the tournament and a good last performance in the Asian Cup.”
— This will be the fifth Asian Cup meeting between Japan and Qatar — Japan losing the first encounter in 1988 but have remained undefeated in the following three contests (W1 D2 L1)
— Japan are making their fifth final appearance (only Saudi Arabia have made the final on more occasions, 6), winning each of the previous four
— Qatar are the 10th different nation to appear in an Asian Cup final
— Japan have scored in all 16 Asian Cup games they’ve participated in since the start of the 2011 tournament, netting a total of 33 goals
— Yuya Osako has scored with each of his last six shots on target for the Japanese national team