Wednesday, 17 July 2024

December 28, 2019

 Japan 9 - 0 Jamaica 

December 28, 2019
Nagasaki (TransCosmos) Stadium

Japan 9

5 1H 0
4 2H 0

0 Jamaica

Yuta Nakayama (06')
Reo Hatate (16')
Daizen Maeda (17')
Reo Hatate (19')
Hiroki Abe (28')
Shunki Higashi (51')
Kazunari Ichimi (82')
Kaoru Mitoma (88')
Yuto Iwasaki (90+5')
Kazunari Ichimi Cautions Howell

  Rui Yamaguchi; Tomoki Iwata, Makoto Okazaki (Takahiro Ko 72'), Ayumu Seko; Yoichi Naganuma, Yuta Nakayama, Taishi Matsumoto (Daiki Matsuoka 81'), Shunki Higashi (Shuichi Suzuki 81'); Reo Hatate (Yuto Iwasaki 57'), Yuki Abe (Kaoru Mitoma 57'); Daizen Maeda (Kazunari Ichimi 57')

 The Japan National Team bid farewell to 2019 in style, Saturday, with what surely ranks as the most comprehensive demolition of an opponent since the late Troussier or early Zico era. Many of the names will be unfamiliar to all but the most hardcore of Samurai Blue fans, since some have not even seen action in the J.League. But the star of the show was coach Moriyasu and his 3-6-1 formation, which is steadily demonstrating what a perfect fit this high-octane style of football is with Japan's newest generation of players.

One reason why some of the starting players for Japan on Saturday have yet to receive public acclaim is that terrestrial TV stations have not been following the U-22 squad. The only real source of full match video has been YouTube. Thus, most fans in Japan were surprised to hear that the starting goalkeeper, Rui Yamaguchi, is currently playing for Extremadura, in Spain. Attacking midfielder Reo Hatate, who is still playing officially for Juntendo University, will be a bit more familiar, since he played in the Copa America. The starting back line of Tomoki Iwata (Oita Trinita), Makoto Okazaki (FC Tokyo) and Ayumu Seko (Cerezo Osaka) will also be familiar to J.League watchers. But despite impressing both Coach Moriyasu and some of the more obsessive of J.League followers, names like Kaoru Mitoma (pledged to Frontale, but still playing for Tsukuba U.), Kazunari Ichimi (Kyoto Sanga FC) and Shuichi Suzuki (Shonan Bellmare) may not spring easily off the tongue.

But all of these players had the energy, enthusiasm and technical skill to press the ball from one end of the pitch to the other. Regardless of who the players were, Jamaica never had a competitive chance. But the pointy end of the Young Samurai attack happened to include the two most well-known names on the squad -- Barcelona B midfielder Hiroki Abe (now known simply as "Iroki" among fans of the Blaugrana) and Maritimo striker Daizen Maeda. It was the third member of this dangerous trio, however, who had the biggest impact.

Japan started out strongly, swarming after the ball and bottling up the visitors deep in their own end. Yuta Nakayama knocked Jamaica to the canvas almost before the first exchange of jabs, sending the first dangerous free kick of the contest sizzling into the top left corner. But it was easy to shake off the impact when you concede from that sort of a set piece. The first-round knockout came from a separate one-two punch, just after the 15 minute mark. Following a lovely exchange of passes down the left wing, Maeda flashed across the face of goal, drawing both defenders. Instead, the ball was dropped back to University student Reo Hatate, unmarked in the right channel. His powerful drive knocked Jamaica down for a second time, and before they could get back on their feet, Maeda finished the contest off with a running volley of Shunki Higashi's cross.

Two minutes later, another bit of bamboozling passing through the channels tore open the floundering Jamaica defense and once more Hatate was free at the far post to put the ball in the net. Less than 20 minutes in, and Japan held a 4-0 advantage. Abe -- who seemed the slickest of the attacking three -- should have claimed both a goal and an assist in the 28th minute when he danced through the Jamaica penalty box all the way to the end line, and was only halted by a sweeping foul from behind. He claimed the PK, though, to get his name on the scoresheet.

The rest of the contest could not have been much fun for the young Jamaicans. A fresh set of active, hard-pressing youngsters took their places in the lineup and did their best to impress Coach Moriyasu. Shunki Higashi scored the sixth goal just after half time, which allowed Moriyasu to take all three of his starting attackers off in the 57th minute. Of the substitutes, both Mitoma and Ichimi got on the scoresheet, and may get another chance to show their potential when Japan takes on Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Syria at the Asia U-22 Championships in Thailand, in early January.  The second unit did squander far too many opportunities, though. With better finishing, Japan could have been well into double digits. 

 In the end, the final goal would come from the penalty spot, when Yuto Iwasaki was cut down in the penalty box, four minutes into injury time. As we noted after Japan's 5-0  defeat of Hong Kong, earlier in the month, the score line should be taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, it is clear that Moriyasu's 3-6-1 philosophy suits Japan well. The midfield completely dictated the match by winning the ball back almost as soon as Jamaica tried to move it upfield. Experience should allow the players to develop their timing and coordination even more. January's tournament in Thailand promises to be a very interesting opportunity for the team to develop its cohesion, though this may mean that Europe-based players like Takefusa Kubo, Takahiro Tomiyasu and Ritsu Doan will get a late start and might struggle to work their way into the lineup.