HIROSHIMA – A lack of ruthlessness in front of the goal proved costly for Japan’s Olympic hopefuls on Sunday as they lost 2-0 to Colombia in an under-22 friendly.
Headlined by senior national team regulars Takefusa Kubo and Ritsu Doan, Hajime Moriyasu’s side created several scoring opportunities at Hiroshima’s Edion Stadium but could not capitalize.
Manager Arturo Reyes’ Colombians had no such problems and will head toward South American qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games with confidence following second-half goals from Luis Sandoval and Juan Pablo Ramirez.
“The team produced chances but unfortunately didn’t finish them, whether or not it was because of pressure or nerves,” Moriyasu said. “We’ll continue strengthening as we build toward the Tokyo Olympics.”
Following a first half in which neither side had a clear advantage, the visitors took the lead in the 47th minute when Sandoval squeezed a close-range shot past goalkeeper Keisuke Osako after the Japanese defense failed to clear a cross.
Japan were fortunate to avoid a two-goal deficit in the 57th minute when playmaker Nicolas Benedetti volleyed just wide of the back post off a long throw.
But the South Americans had their second two minutes later when Benedetti made an unchecked run from the left wing through the center of the pitch before laying off to Ramirez inside the area.
The hosts squandered a handful of good chances late in the half.
After receiving a ball into the box from 18-year-old star Kubo, Doan unleashed a close-range shot with his second touch straight at Colombian keeper Esteban Ruiz.
PSV Eindhoven playmaker Doan then provided a superb ball over the top to send Koki Ogawa into a one-on-one with Ruiz, but the forward fired against the post.
Japan will continue their Olympic preparations with a U-22 friendly against Jamaica at Transcosmos Stadium Nagasaki on Dec. 28.
The Olympic men’s soccer tournament will be contested by U-23 teams with a limited number of overage players.