HANOI — Ivica Osim asked for Japan to be judged at the end of the first-round stage after the coach watched his team throw away the lead against Qatar in their Group B opener in Hanoi on Monday evening.
Naohiro Takahara opened the scoring on the hour mark with a clever finish in a match at My Dinh Stadium dominated by Japan, but Uruguayan-born forward Sebastian Quintana equalized with a deflected free-kick two minutes from the end of normal time as the game ended all-square.
“The late goal was a bit of a shock but we will have to wait and see how significant this result is at the end of the first round,” said Osim, whose men also face United Arab Emirates and Vietnam in their group.
Osim admitted he was surprised his team couldn’t score more than one goal against the Qataris, even though the coach started with a cautious lineup that featured only one out-and-out forward in Eintracht Frankfurt’s Takahara.
“I was surprised at our players. They played good football but the problem is we have to learn to take our chances,”said the 66-year-old Bosnian. “We have not reached the stage where we can turn something beautiful into something meaningful.”
Goal-scorer Takahara said a second goal was desperately needed to kill off the game.
“After the first goal we should have capitalized but instead we ended up being pulled around by them,”Takahara said. “We need to figure out what to do both when we are ahead by one or when we are at a disadvantage.
“We only got one point from this game so from now on we need three points from the last two games.”
Captain Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi was more scathing in his assessment of the performance and pointed his finger at colleagues for allowing Quintana to lash a deflected free-kick past the ‘keeper for Qatar’s last-gasp equalizer.
Yuki Abe conceded the free-kick with a foul on the striker.
“This is the scary thing about international soccer and there are some players in the team who still don’t get it,”said Kawaguchi.
“We knew they had a decent striker who could hit the ball and we knew we couldn’t give fouls away. There was some dubious officiating but we let ourselves become frustrated by that instead of playing our game.”
On second glance it was debatable whether Abe’s challenge merited the referee stopping play, but Osim refused to dwell on the game and quickly turned his attention to the next group match against the United Arab Emirates on Friday evening, when the coach hopes Japan’s luck in front of goal will change.
“We were unlucky but that is part and parcel of football,”said Osim. “Obviously it would have been easier if we had won. The problem is whether or not we can play again in the next game like we did today. Our next opponents know us a bit better now, just as we know them, so it will be a different type of game from today.”