Tuesday, 21 May 2024

Samurai Blue do the Mon-GOOOOOOOOAAALLL-ia

 Japan 14 - 0 Mongolia

On a balmy Tuesday evening in Chiba, a somewhat "understrength" Samurai Blue lineup engraved their names in history with a new Japan record for the most goals scored in a FIFA "A" match.

March 30, 2021
Fukuda Denshi Arena, Chiba

Japan 14

5 1H 0
9 2H 0

0 Mongolia

Takumi Minamino (13')
Yuya Osako (23')
Daichi Kamada (26')
Hidemasa Morita (33')
Own Goal (37')
Yuya Osako (55')
Sho Inagaki (68')
Junya Ito (73')
Kyogo Furuhashi (78')
Junya Ito (79')
Kyogo Furuhashi (86')
Takuma Asano (90+1')
Yuya Osako (90+2')
Sho Inagaki (90+3')


  Shuichi Gonda; Ken Matsubara, Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu (Shinnosuke Hatanaka 71'), Ryoya Ogawa; Hidemasa Morita (Takuma Asano 45'), Wataru Endo; Junya Ito, Daichi Kamata (Sho Inagaki 63'), Takumi Minamino (Ryogo Furuhashi 71'); Yuya Osako

Before saying anything else about the Samurai Blue, I want to start by commending the Mongolian team for a valiant performance. Despite having to play their "home" match against Japan at Fukuda Denshi Arena (aka "Fukuari Stadium", which last time I checked, is in Chiba, Japan), the 190th-ranked Mongolians never stopped running, and were trying to chase the ball into attack as late as the 91st minute, They were clearly outmatched from the opening whistle, and before the second half even began, it must have been tough just to be out there . . . but never once did a player feign injury, roll on the ground to waste time, or kick the ball out cynically. Their brave and exhausting performance in the face of Japan's onslaught was something Mongolians should view with pride, not humiliation

For Japan, the result may actually create a few more headaches for coach Hajime Moriyasu, as he tries to sort through the large pool ... lake? ... ummm, sea of candidates for inclusion in the Samurai Blue squad. He will no doubt welcome the dilemma that performances from Kyogo Furuhashi, Ken Matsubara, Takuma Asano and Sho Inagaki may create.

The sheer scale of Japan's victory makes it difficult to provide any recap of the "action". It would take a novella to sort through all the individual moments of skill, or flashes of that synergy that the Brazilians call O Jogo Bonita. It would be like writing about Japan's cherry blossom season and trying to describe each and every tree. The only thing you really need to say is that - from about the 30th minute, when the Mongolians exhausted the last sprint they possessed and allowed the Samurai Blue to move the ball at will - it was a thing of beauty.

Last week I posted a video of Japan's 8-1 destruction of Uzbekistan at the 2000 Asian Cup, and offered a prayer that the Samurai Blue might rediscover the ruthless streak that Japan has not demonstrated since the Troussier or early Zico era. Sure enough, Moriyasu Japan put their mark in the history books, despite the absence of players like Gaku Shibasaki, Hiroki Sakai, Genki Haraguchi and of course, all members of the U-24 squad that upended Argentina, on Monday. The three goals scored in additional time are particularly encouraging. That is the sort of ruthlessness that has always seemed lacking in Japan's men, and it is the one quality that keeps them from reaching the "top level."

-The U-24 team looked a bit "unprepared" (naive?) in their first contest against the Argentines, but on Monday they played with a lot more grit, and got a very confidence-boosting 3-0 win. The score line flatters, it is true, but the two set-piece goals scored by Ko Itakura (delivered by Take Kubo) were exactly the sort of "brute-force" tallies that teams need to create in tough, international contests.

- As for the full NT, the "friendly" against Korea showed glimpses of Japan at its free-flowing best. But it was only in the second half of Tuesday's match that the chemistry seemed to ignite. Not only did Moriyasu have the opportunity to try out some new candidates, but he also made several formation switches (to a 4-1-4-1 at half time and to a 4-3-3 around the 70 minute mark). The late insertion of Vissel's Ryogo Furuhashi and former Ventforet Kofu academy member Sho Inagaki was like a shot of adrenaline for the entire team. Both players managed to score a brace, as did Junya Ito (another proud product of the Yamanashi Wine-and-Blue), while Yuya Osako pursued a hat trick all the way to the 92nd minute and secured Man of the Match. But this was a match that was about all eleven . . . make that fifteen men, not just one. A really impressive TEAM performance.

I have a lot more to say about the Moriyasu Generation, and I may post a fuller analysis tomorrow. But tonight I just want to savour the feeling that this entire International week has created. All in all, it has been a bonanza of beautiful football!