Expect more from Japan, warns Moriyasu

Hajime Moriyasu warned the remaining teams at the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ that the Samurai Blue can do better after seeing his side hand Bahrain a 3-1 defeat at Al Thumama Stadium to book their place in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.

The four-time champions won despite a minor wobble in the middle of the second half when Ayase Ueda’s own goal gave Bahrain hope following strikes from Ritsu Doan and Takefusa Kubo, but Ueda scored soon after to seal a deserved victory.

“I think today’s win was the result of the effort my players and staff put into training,” said Moiryasu. “We had six days to rest and trained very well, we prepared very well to play Bahrain today.

“We analysed ourselves after the Indonesia game and we fixed a few things. We played better today.

“I don’t think today’s performance was 100 percent. We can improve for the next games as well.”

The Japanese were in control throughout the first half and took the lead when Doan pounced to score on the rebound after Seiya Maikuma’s shot from distance had come back off the post.

Kubo then doubled the lead three minutes into the second half when he swooped on Hazza Ali’s misplaced pass into his path, the Real Sociedad man registering after the goal had been confirmed by a VAR check.

A mix-up between Ueda and goalkeeper Zion Suzuki when Sayed Baqer headed goalward in the 64th minute saw Bahrain pull a goal back but Ueda made amends eight minutes later with a clinical finish to confirm Japan’s place in the next round.

“We did well to defend against Bahrain during the game and we picked up the second balls efficiently,” said Moriyasu.

“We did what we aimed to do before the game. Of course not every play was perfect, I admit that, but I think we can improve in the next matches.”

The result brings Bahrain’s AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 involvement to an end, with Juan Antonio Pizzi hoping his side can build on their performance when the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ returns in March.

“We are satisfied with the performance,” said the Argentinian. “Since I started coaching the team we have played matches against strong teams and we have seen a lot of progress.

“The players are progressing and the way we are playing is good. We are learning from every single match and now we are getting ready for the qualifiers for the World Cup.”

Pizzi admitted the gulf in class between the two sets of players left him feeling fortunate not to lose by a greater margin.

“The Japanese team used the space in the second half and we could have lost with a bigger goal difference,” he said. “Our idea was to not give so much space to the Japanese and to prevent that threat. We relied on swift counterattacks.

“There was some tension before playing Japan and we were able to be in control until the 35th minute, but with so much pressure we couldn’t cope.”

BY: Nadeem Faisal Baiga