Al Ain: Japanese coach Hajime Moriyasu had asked for “more spirit” ahead of their semi-final and on Monday night, he was a happy man having got much more than he had asked for as Japan blanked Iran 3-0 in their key 2019 AFC Asian Cup clash.
Coming into the last four stages, the Samurai Blue had ground out a series of close results with very little of the Japanese brand of football on display. However on Monday, they showed why they are among the most successful football teams with their mesmerising display, especially in the last 35 minutes.
“Iran have had great results in the past and we knew they were going to be a very tough opponent, but the players had prepared well and they showed great fighting spirit,” Moriyasu said at the post-match conference late on Monday.
“I’m happy the players could show the spirit to fight and to deliver a good result. They didn’t forget to have the mindset of challengers and that gave us the win. The atmosphere was like an away game for us, but there were many Japanese supporters and many people back home supporting us too,” he added.
A former international who has had 35 caps, Moriyasu had also guided Japan to the silver medal after losing to Vietnam in the final of the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia. Five games into this competition and Japan had been less than convincing with scrappy wins against Turkmenistan, Oman and Uzbekistan in the group phase, before seeing off Saudi Arabia and Vietnam in the knockout rounds.
“I don’t think we have changed compared to how we have played in the previous matches, but what our players did today was, by respecting and knowing our opponent, they tried to perform to their best both individually and as a team,” Moriyasu remarked.
“Knowing that Iran have a strong attack and are physically strong, our players were aggressive and showed a lot of fighting spirit, and that was the difference tonight. We tried to win the second ball and remained persistent,” he added.
Moriyasu got an additional free day of rest on Tuesday before Friday’s final in Abu Dhabi. “We knew it would be very hard to hold the ball, but the players tried hard and delivered the ball from the defence to the forwards and I think that was the good part. We were able to be aggressive in attack and defence but we were patient defensively and we were able to stop the Iranian attacks,” the coach complimented.
“There wasn’t just one style of play in this match, but the players showed flexibility and that’s what got us this result. In the final we will have our ideals, but when we face the reality we will adjust to that as well,” he added.