Japan coach happy to keep winning ugly in Asian Cup semis

By Reuters   January 27, 2019 | 05:57 pm PT
Japan coach happy to keep winning ugly in Asian Cup semis
Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu before the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Quarterfinal match between Vietnam 0-1 Japan at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, UAE on January 24, 2019. Photo handed out by Reuters
Japan coach is very much of the philosophy that a win is a win and will be more than content if his side beats Iran by a single goal.

The Samurai Blue have stuttered their way to the semi-finals in the United Arab Emirates with five wins by the margin of just one goal but coach Hajime Moriyasu said a sixth in Al Ain on Monday would suit him fine.

"We’re not a perfect team and we’re not a mature team, so we’re developing in every game we play," he told reporters on Sunday.

"In each game the players have been learning as well as getting the result and moving on to the next step. Winning by small margins because winning is important no matter how we play.

"The players know that we are playing with persistence and each time they are trying to express our team concept. I want them to do the same thing tomorrow, to play aggressively and hopefully get the result."

Japan won the last of their four titles in 2011 with the sort of dominant performances that have become their hallmark in continental competition.

They have come nowhere near exerting that control in this campaign so far, though, and on Monday they will face the form team of the tournament so far for the right to face the hosts or Qatar in the final.

"Iran are a top-class team and they have shown that at the Asian Cup," he added.

"We respect every opponent but more important is how we express our own football and quality, and that will be the same tomorrow. In order to win we have to play aggressively."

Moriyasu, who will have Yoshinori Muto available again after the Newcastle United striker missed the quarter-final win over Vietnam through suspension, said maintaining possession in the face of Iran’s physical challenge would be key.

"Football is a game about scoring goals but first you have to win the ball," he said.

"We have to win the ball and then we have to resist the strong Iranian pressure and hold onto it."

The two countries have met three times in the Asian Cup with two clashes finishing 0-0 and a Japan side featuring Moriyasu in midfield winning the third 1-0 on home soil in 1992 on their way to their maiden title.

"I hope the players here will play as well as we did in that game," the coach said.

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