Japan reaches round of 16 with ‘8-man rotation’
Japan’s national soccer team used a deep rotation to prepare for the 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup tournament.
Japan defeated Indonesia 3-1 in the final Group D match of the tournament on Thursday (Sept. 24) at the Altumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar.
With a 2-1-1 record (6 points), Japan advances to the Round of 16 as the second-place team in the group behind Iraq (3 wins and 9 points).
Japan’s Round of 16 opponent will be determined by the results of the final three Group E matches on Friday. If South Korea finishes first in Group E, it will play the “big match” against Japan in the Round of 16.
After falling 1-2 to Iraq in the second game, which prevented them from jumping to the top of the group, Japan made a number of changes to prepare for the match against South Korea.
They made eight changes to their starting lineup compared to the Iraq game.
With the exception of striker Takefusa Kubo (Real Sociedad), midfielder Wataru Endo (Liverpool), and goalkeeper Zaion Suzuki (Sint-Truiden), almost every position was changed.
It could have been a message from coach Hajime Moriyasu in response to the loss to Iraq, but it’s more likely to be a fitness check for the upcoming clash with South Korea, who are likely to meet in the round of 16.
At the same time, it was the most playing time of the tournament for Kubo, who is finding his form after recovering from injury.
After coming on as a late substitute in the first group game, Gubo made his first start in the second, playing 62 minutes. He then played 81 minutes in the third game against Indonesia.
However, they still haven’t found a clear path in the attacking third.
Kubo’s performance will be crucial for Japan to achieve their goal of winning the Asian Cup.
Kubo’s emergence will be crucial for Japan to overcome some of the tougher opponents they will face in the tournament, especially with the availability of injured goalkeeper Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton) unclear.
It was also important to give defenders Ko Itakura (Mönchengladbach), Koki Machida (Gwynion Saint-Gilles) and Seiya Maikuma (Cerezo Osaka) time to recharge their batteries after they struggled against Iraq.
At the same time, Takehiro Tomiyasu, a defender who plays for Arsenal in the English Premier League (EPL), was given a boost in form by starting against Indonesia.
Of course, Japan’s performance still fell short of expectations.
Despite dominating Indonesia, they missed numerous scoring chances. They also conceded a goal in the second half due to a lack of concentration.
Ayase Ueda (Feyenoord) scored a hat-trick on the day, but there are still questions about the frontline striker, who has changed for three consecutive group games.