|▲ Japan won 2-1 in their home match against Australia. ⓒYonhap News/AP|
|▲ Australia did not get any points in the away game to Japan. ⓒYonhap News/REUTERS|
[스포티비뉴스=이성필 기자] ‘Samurai Blue’ Japan has successfully escaped the crisis.
Japan defeated Australia 2-1 in Group B of the Asian final qualifier for the 2022 Qatar World Cup held at Saitama Stadium in Saitama, Japan. Japan, with 2 wins and 2 losses and 6 points, maintained third place. The gap between first place Australia and second place Saudi Arabia (9 points or more) has been narrowed to three points.
With the determination to win unconditionally, Japan selected the best players as the starters. Yuya Osaka (Vissel Kobe) was at the forefront, while Ao Tanaka (Düsseldorf), Takumi Minamino (Liverpool) and Junya Ito (Genk) were in the second line of attack. Wataru Endo (Stuttgart), Hidemasa Morita (Santa Clara), Yuto Nagamoto (FC Tokyo), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal), Maya Yoshida (Sampdoria), Hiroki Sakai (Urawa Reds) form the defensive line, and Shuichi Gonda (Shimizu S-Pulse) puts on goalkeeper gloves.
Australia put Adam Taggart (Cereso Osaka), who played for Suwon Samsung, as the top one. Tom Rogic (Celtic) applied on the flank along with Martin Boyle (Hibernian). Harry Suthar (Stoke City) was in the centre, leading the defense. Matthew Ryan (Real Sociedad) kept the goal.
Japan’s concentration to win was amazing. In the 3rd minute Junya Ito sprinted to the right flank with speed and attempted a cross, and Endo’s header slightly missed the left side of the post in the 6th minute.
However, in the 8th minute, Japan took the lead. Minamino’s cross from the left flank was deflected by the defense, and Tanaka caught the ball and shot with his right foot to split the net. The goal was scored faster than expected and Japan, who had room to manage the game, pushed back the formation and looked for an opportunity in a counterattack or a pass mistake by Australia. In the 34th minute, Osako, who blocked Australia’s build-up, advanced into the penalty area and shot through the defense, passing to the left of the goal.
Still, it was easy to block it from the perspective of Japan, where Australia tried to attack with a jan-pass, which is a pass-based soccer game. In the 41st minute, Taggart’s shot hit the bottom of the right post, and Mui’s shot hit the defending body, and the first half ended as it was.
In the second half, Japan blocked Australia’s pass and aimed for a quick conversion attack. In the 5th minute, Mui led the Japanese defense forward with a mid-range shot. Pass fights continued, and mistakes were the flow that led to conceding. In the 13th minute, Rogic shot the ball from three passes, but it went over the post.
Japan changed the attack by dropping Osako in the 15th minute and adding Kyoko Furuhashi (Celtic). Australia also responded with Mitchell Duke (Okayama) and Our Marvil (Mitwilan), except for Mui and Taggart. The atmosphere shook and Morita fouled in the 25th minute and a penalty kick was awarded. However, it was changed from video analysis (VAR) to a free kick. Adin Krustich (Einracht Frankfurt) attempted a left-footed kick and it hit the crossbar and entered.
It was a one-goal game, and Japan took out Minamino and Asano Takunaga (Bochum) card in the 32nd minute. It was the will to score. Asano shook the keeper with a strong ground ball shot. Australia increased the proportion of long passes and induced them to fight. In the 35th minute, Rogichi was removed and James Jego (Aris) was added to strengthen the waist. Afterwards, Asano attempted a chip shot over the goalkeeper’s head and was hit by Bechic and bent into the goal. It was a lucky goal.
Urgent Australia hit the ball into the penalty area, but it didn’t touch due to a breathing mismatch. He tried a football of strength with a long pass, but could not break through the already established Japanese defense and the game ended as it was.
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