• Kyodo


Japan proved a cut above in its last friendly before next year’s Asian Cup, beating Kyrgyzstan 4-0 on Tuesday.

A second-minute strike by national team debutant Ryosuke Yamanaka set the tone, with Genki Haraguchi adding another midway through the first half and substitutes Yuya Osako and Shoya Nakajima finishing the job late as Japan dominated at Toyota Stadium.

The Kirin Challenge Cup victory improved Hajime Moriyasu’s record to four wins and one draw since he was installed at the helm of the Samurai Blue, with three of the triumphs coming against South and Central American opposition.

“No matter who our opponent is, it was good the players played with a high motivation,” said the 50-year-old who also got a look at what his team might face against fellow Central Asian teams Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup group stage next year.

“Many players, not just a few, have shown me they can play for the national team, so I want to improve the level of the team based on these past matches.”

Fielding a completely new-look starting 11 to the team that drew 1-1 with Venezuela on Friday in Oita, Japan was given a dream start by the blond-coiffed Yamanaka.

The goal came on the counter, Kenyu Sugimoto finding Koya Kitagawa, who knocked a cross-field pass to the Yokohama F. Marinos defender, allowing him to control and strike across ‘keeper Pavel Matiash with his left from just inside the box.

“My plan was to do my absolute best from the beginning of the match so the goal was a result of that,” said Yamanaka. “I wanted to demonstrate how I am unique by being a part of our attack, but it was good considering it was my debut.”

Japan’s next goal was credited to Haraguchi, but really it was an embarrassing attempt by Matiash — a weak double-handed push that deflected the ball inside his own post — that extended Japan’s lead.

Japan dominated the rest of the half but had to wait until the 72nd minute for second-half substitute Osako to increase the lead, Kitagawa laying on his second assist with the sole of his foot.

A minute later, Japan was celebrating again when Ritsu Doan set Nakajima up for a curling right-footer that flew past a sprawling Matiash.

“Our first priority was to win. It is always difficult to win against any opponent,” said Moriyasu. “There were a lot of fans here at Toyota Stadium, and many people cheered for us on TV, so I’m glad we got it.”

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.