Japan's senior side taught the nation's under-24 Olympic hopefuls a lesson in a 3-0 win Thursday, with Kento Hashimoto, Daichi Kamada and Takuma Asano all finding the net in a unique, intriguing encounter.
The U-24s started with all three of their overage players — Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Sakai and Wataru Endo — on the bench, and the senior side showed no mercy against the youngsters, finishing clinically at an empty Sapporo Dome.
The game was abruptly arranged after the senior sides' originally scheduled match against Jamaica on Thursday was canceled two days earlier. Some members of the visiting team, flying in from Europe, failed to arrive on time due to issues with a coronavirus screening system for air passengers.
"We're working as one team that can win under two categories on the international stage. I feel the players played to get the result throughout and put their focus on each situation," said manager Hajime Moriyasu, who directed the senior side, with coach Akinobu Yokouchi overseeing the U-24s.
It was the first matchup between two Japanese national sides since 1980, when teams separated by their age faced each other.
On Thursday, the senior side, wearing light blue retro shirts celebrating the Japan Football Association's 100th anniversary year, took control of the tie just two minutes in.
FC Rostov's Hashimoto opened the scoring after Kamada's corner was flicked on by Yuya Osako to the far post, where Hashimoto was unmarked to steer high into the roof of the net.
The U-24s had their chance in the 20th minute when dynamo Takefusa Kubo, a day before his 20th birthday, played Kyosuke Tagawa down the right on a counter. But the forward could only find the side-netting on a one-on-one with keeper Daniel Schmidt.
Kamada doubled the lead in the 41st minute for the senior side in what had been an evenly matched encounter. Takumi Minamino nodded a cross to Kamada, who took a touch before finding the low bottom corner from inside the box.
Both teams made a raft of changes at the interval, and the senior side again scored early in the half to kill the game off. Two substitutes combined as left-back Ryoya Ogawa's low cross found Asano, who had his initial effort denied by keeper Yuya Oki but smashed home the rebound.
The U-24s brought on Ritsu Doan and Endo in the latter half of the second period, but their assuring presence and a period of sustained pressure could not lead to a clear-cut chance before speedster Asano launched a counter on his own at the other end only to blast over the bar.
"We both play with the same concept and I could see what they were trying to do," said Doan of the senior side. "But we lost out on occasions in terms of taking chances and when vying for the ball."
The U-24 side is scheduled to face Ghana U-24 on Saturday at Fukuoka's Best Denki Stadium. But there is doubt whether that game will go ahead after a Ghana player tested positive for coronavirus upon arrival in Japan.
That player is quarantined while the other 18 players and staff all tested negative upon arrival in Japan and again on Thursday.
The senior side, which has already clinched its spot in the final round of the 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers, will face Tajikistan in a second-round game on Monday.
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