Japan goalkeeper will have 'painful memory' of Asian Cup shock

By AFP   January 19, 2024 | 07:46 pm PT
Japan goalkeeper will have 'painful memory' of Asian Cup shock
Japan goalkeeper Zion Suzuki (number 23) after conceding a goal against Iraq in Asian Cup group stage on Jan. 19, 2024. Photo by AFP/Hector Retamal
Japan's coach expects young goalkeeper Zion Suzuki to bounce back from the "painful memory" of another shaky performance in their stunning 2-1 Asian Cup defeat to Iraq on Friday.

Suzuki was winning only his sixth cap and conceded two first-half headers by Aymen Hussein, gifting the striker his first with a weak clearance that fell straight to him.

With Iraq into the last 16, pre-tournament favorites Japan face Indonesia on Wednesday to decide who takes the second qualifying spot out of group D, although third could also be enough.

The 21-year-old Suzuki was also at fault in Japan's opening game against Vietnam, letting in two first-half goals before they turned it around to win 4-2.

"He has conceded twice in the last two games but he is young," said coach Hajime Moriyasu.

"When you don't have much experience you make mistakes, and that's the case whether you're a goalkeeper or in any other walk of life."

Suzuki moved to Belgium's Sint-Truiden last summer after spending most of his career at Asian club champions Urawa Red Diamonds on the bench.

Moriyasu has few other goalkeeping options in his squad.

Back-up Daiya Maekawa has only one cap and third-choice Taishi Brandon Nozawa has yet to play for his country.

Japan's 2022 World Cup goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda was left at home, but Moriyasu believes Suzuki is up to the job.

"I think he has a bright future ahead of him," he said.

"For him and for the team it will be a painful memory, but I want him to embrace the challenge."

Four-time Asian champions Japan conceded at the start and end of the first half to leave them with an uphill battle against Iraq.

Wataru Endo gave Japan hope with a goal in injury time at the end of the game but Moriyasu admitted the damage had already been done.

"We weren't able to create many big chances and we have to reflect on that," he said.

"We didn't have as much quality as I expected. We made some changes for this game and I have to think that my choices had an effect on the players."

Japan went into the game off the back of a run of 10 straight wins where they scored 43 goals.

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