Sun. May 26th, 2024

日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23 Japan U-23 vs Uzbekistan U-23

Japan’s under-23 national soccer team clinched victory in the final of the Asian men’s soccer qualifiers for the Paris Olympics by defeating Uzbekistan 1-0. This win secured Japan’s eighth consecutive qualification for the Olympic Games, marking them as the Asian champions as they head into the Paris Games.

日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23 Japan U-23 vs Uzbekistan U-23
日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23

In the final match of the Asian final qualifying round, held in Qatar on the 3rd, Japan faced off against Uzbekistan.

Japan’s starting lineup featured standout players such as Masahiro Hosoya, who had scored in two consecutive games, along with captains Joru Chima Fujita and Shota Fujio. Both Fujita and Fujio brought valuable experience from the Under-23 Asian Cup, where Japan had suffered defeat against Uzbekistan a year prior.

日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23 Japan U-23 vs Uzbekistan U-23
日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23

Throughout the first half, Japan found themselves under pressure from Uzbekistan, known for their strong physicality. Despite sustained attacks, Japan’s defense held firm, denying Uzbekistan any goals and ensuring they entered the halftime break on equal footing.

日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23

The second half of the match unfolded with Japan facing continued pressure from Uzbekistan, who pushed for a breakthrough. However, as the game progressed towards its conclusion, Japan managed to gain more possession and control over the ball.

Hamida Banu 2024 Google released a doodle on Saturday, May 4

In the dying moments of stoppage time, substitute Yamada Kaede made a decisive impact. Building up play with quick, short passes, Yamada seized the opportunity and unleashed a shot with his favored left foot, finally breaking the deadlock and scoring the long-awaited opening goal. This crucial goal secured victory for Japan and earned them the title of Asian champions in the final of the Asian men’s soccer qualifiers for the Paris Olympics.

日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23

In a dramatic turn of events, shortly after Yamada Kaede’s crucial goal, a header in Japan’s own penalty area was deemed a handball foul upon review by the VAR (Video Assistant Referee). As a result, a penalty kick was awarded to Uzbekistan, presenting them with a golden opportunity to equalize.

However, Japan’s goalkeeper Reo Kokubo Brian rose to the occasion, making a spectacular save to deny Uzbekistan’s penalty attempt. With this crucial intervention, Japan preserved their lead and managed to keep a clean sheet, ultimately securing a hard-fought 1-0 victory.

日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23

Kaede Yamada, reflecting on his winning goal after coming on as a substitute, expressed his genuine happiness at achieving the desired result. He shared, “I’m honestly happy that I was able to get the result.” His sentiment underlines the satisfaction and relief of contributing to the team’s victory.

日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン

Similarly, Yamada Fuuki, who also came on as a substitute and scored the winning goal, revealed his strategic mindset during the game. He stated, “I knew that the first half was going to be long, and even after the second half started, so I had the image that if I received the ball in between, I would be able to face forward and take a shot.” He expressed profound emotion, reflecting on his perseverance during challenging times, saying, “I’m honestly happy that what I’ve always done without giving up even when times were tough has finally come to fruition

日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23

Looking ahead with determination, Yamada Fuuki expressed his team’s ambitions, declaring, “We want to stick to our style in Paris and run all the way to the gold medal.” This declaration signifies the team’s unwavering commitment to their playing style and their aspiration to achieve the ultimate success at the Paris Olympics.

Goalkeeper Reo Kokubo, who played a pivotal role with numerous remarkable saves, expressed her immense joy at the team’s collective victory, stating, “I’m very happy that the team came together as one to win.” Her words highlight the importance of teamwork and unity in achieving success on the field.

Reflecting on the crucial moment when she stopped the opponent’s penalty kick in the final moments of the game, Kokubo admitted, “I wasn’t very confident, but everyone came running to me and I believed in them, saying, ‘It’s okay, you can stop it.'” Her trust in her teammates’ support underscores the camaraderie within the team.

日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23
日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23

Looking forward, Kokubo emphasized her immediate focus on enjoying the victory with her teammates without getting ahead of themselves regarding the Paris Olympics. She expressed her gratitude to all the supporters, acknowledging their role in the team’s success. This humble gratitude demonstrates Kokubo’s appreciation for the collective effort and support that contributed to their triumph.

Joru Chima Fujita, the captain of the team and the recipient of the tournament’s MVP (Most Valuable Player) Award, shared his thoughts on their hard-fought victory. He remarked, “It was a really tough match, but winning was important, so I’m glad we achieved our goal. As for MVP, it’s not just me. No. I think we accomplished this as a team. Winning was the first thing, and we can go to Paris with confidence.” Fujita’s words emphasize the collective effort and teamwork that led to their success, highlighting the importance of unity in achieving their goals.

日本 U-23 対 ウズベキスタン U-23

Expressing his excitement for the upcoming Olympics, Fujita stated, “I can challenge for the Paris Olympics as an Asian champion, so I’m focused on the result. I want to do my best to aim for the gold medal, which I’ve never achieved before.” His determination to represent his team and country with pride and to strive for the highest honor reflects his strong leadership and commitment to success.

In an interview conducted immediately after the game, Coach Tsuyoshi Oiwa expressed his admiration for the players’ performance, stating, “It was a very tough game, and the players did a great job.” When questioned about the challenges he encountered in terms of team management, he candidly replied, “Everything,” before elaborating, “I think I may have caused worry and concern, but now, as the Asian champions, we can confidently head to the Paris Olympics. We would be grateful for your continued support.” Oiwa’s acknowledgment of the team’s efforts and his humility in recognizing his own challenges underscore his dedication to the team’s success and his gratitude towards their supporters.

Japan Football Association President Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, who was present at the venue, expressed his satisfaction with the team’s victory, stating, “I was sweating a lot, but I’m glad we won.” Reflecting on the challenging first half where the opponent gained momentum, Miyamoto praised the team’s resilience, saying, “In the first half, the opponent had a lot of momentum and we had a hard time controlling the game, but it was thanks to the team’s hard work. I think that’s what led to Kokubo’s big save.” His words acknowledge the team’s collective effort and highlight the crucial role played by goalkeeper Reo Kokubo in securing the victory.

Regarding the three overage spots permitted at the Paris Olympics, Miyamoto emphasized the ongoing negotiations and the importance of balancing experience with the opportunity for young players to develop. He stated, “We have to negotiate a lot about how many people will fit in, and we are currently in the process of gathering information. At the Olympics, we are trying to win. We need to create both a place for young players to grow.” Miyamoto’s comments underscore the association’s commitment to strategic planning and creating opportunities for both experienced players and emerging talent to thrive on the international stage.

The trajectory of Japan’s national team, which showcased their resilience, has been remarkable. Despite facing challenges such as limited international exposure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and difficulties in gathering athletes, there were initial concerns surrounding Japan’s under-23 national team, especially given the tough competition they were up against in the tournament.

However, the 23 athletes who answered the call rose to the occasion and proved themselves by clinching the title of “Asian Champions.” Their journey not only secured their qualification for the Paris Olympics but also showcased the unwavering “toughness” emphasized by coach Tsuyoshi Oiwa. Their determination, grit, and perseverance in the face of adversity exemplify the spirit of the team and set a strong foundation for their pursuit of success in Paris.

Coach Oiwa’s clear goals of qualifying for the Olympics and becoming Asia Champion set the tone for Japan’s under-23 national team ahead of the grueling schedule of six games in just over two weeks. He emphasized the importance of mental and physical toughness to his players.

In the first league match against China, the unexpected occurred. Despite Japan taking an early lead, their momentum was disrupted when one player received a red card, reducing their team to 10 players for the majority of the match.

The player who proved instrumental in rescuing Japan from this challenging situation was Reo Kokubo, the goalkeeper standing tall at 1 meter 93 cm. Despite facing relentless attacks from the opposing team, Kokubo showcased her exceptional goalkeeping skills, making crucial saves and preventing any points from being scored against her team. Her performance not only preserved the lead but also secured three valuable points for Japan.

Building on their momentum, Japan secured a comfortable victory against the United Arab Emirates in the second match, ensuring their advancement to the final tournament even before the third match.

However, in the crucial third match against arch-rivals South Korea, where the goal was to secure first place in the group, Japan’s “lack of decisiveness” became apparent. Despite dominating possession throughout the game and taking more than twice as many shots as Korea, they failed to convert any into goals. Moreover, in the second half, they conceded a goal from a set play, further adding to their woes. As a result, Japan finished the first round in second place, albeit still advancing to the final tournament.

The forwards, particularly, felt the impact of their goal drought during the first league. Shindai Hosoya, the ace striker who had previously represented the Japan national team across all age groups, had struggled to find the back of the net in both J1 and national team games this year. Expressing his frustration, he lamented, “This is the reality right now.”

As the final tournament progressed, the stakes became increasingly higher. In the quarterfinals against the host country, Qatar, the pressure was palpable. With their Olympic dreams on the line, many players, including defender Daiki Sekine, admitted to feeling immense nervousness. Sekine remarked, “It was the most nervous I’ve ever been in my soccer career.”

The game extended into overtime, with both teams managing to score, resulting in a tense 2-2 draw. With memories of the penalty shootout lingering, Shindai Hosoya, known as “that man,” finally found his form. Seizing an opportunity in the first half of overtime, Hosoya calmly received the ball in front of the goal and netted his long-awaited first goal of the tournament.

Indeed, Hosoya’s crucial goal was a testament to his unwavering self-belief in the importance of mental toughness for a striker. Despite facing challenges and failing to convert numerous chances in the past, he maintained his confidence and perseverance. This goal not only propelled Japan to the semi-finals but also served as a cathartic moment, erasing the painful feelings of frustration and doubt that Hosoya had experienced. It symbolized his resilience and determination to overcome obstacles, ultimately contributing to his team’s success on the field.

With the momentum from their previous victories, the team sailed through the semi-final against Iraq, propelled by Hosoya’s goals in two consecutive games. Securing a ticket to Paris, which was their “minimum goal,” was achieved with relative ease. However, the players remained resolute in their ambitions, declaring, “Our goal is to become the Asian champion.” Their focus was already fixed on the finals, with their sights set on achieving the ultimate success in the tournament.

The final match against Uzbekistan proved to be the toughest challenge yet. Unlike previous matches, Japan found themselves on the defensive for much of the game, with Uzbekistan dominating possession and launching relentless attacks. Japan’s players had to put in their best efforts to repel their opponent’s advances, barely finding opportunities to launch counterattacks of their own. However, their steadfast defense held firm, preventing Uzbekistan from scoring. Then, in a crucial moment just before the end of the second half, substitute Yamada Kaede broke the deadlock with an opening goal. Following this pivotal goal, goalkeeper Kokubo made a crucial save in a desperate penalty kick situation, further securing Japan’s lead.

Looking ahead to the Paris Olympics, Japan’s team is gearing up to face formidable opponents from the preliminary league, including Paraguay, Mali, and Israel. With only two and a half months remaining until the opening of the Games, the Japanese representatives from the “Paris generation,” known for their toughness and resilience, are determined to make their mark. Their goal is not just to win their first medal in 56 years since the Mexico Games but to aim for the elusive gold medal. With their unwavering determination and commitment, they are poised to give their all and compete at full throttle in pursuit of Olympic glory.

In the final qualifying round for the Asian Olympics, each team could register 23 athletes. However, for the Paris Olympics, the number of registrations has been reduced to 18, five fewer players.

In men’s soccer at the Olympics, players under the age of 23 are eligible to participate, with each team allowed up to three overage players. If three overage players are included, the number of players under 23 registered is reduced to 15.

Unlike this tournament, the Paris Olympics have no age limit. Some overseas players from the same generation, such as 22-year-old Takefusa Kubo, a key player for the Japanese national team, are not participating. It will be interesting to see who will be selected as the representative members for the Paris Olympics.

Japan has been placed in Group D for the Paris Olympics, alongside Paraguay, Mali, and Israel. In a warm-up match held in Kyoto Prefecture in March, Japan faced Mali and suffered a 1-3 defeat.

Uzbekistan, the second-place finisher in the final Asian qualifying round, was placed in Group C, competing against Spain, Egypt, and the Dominican Republic.

Iraq, who finished third in the Asian final qualifying round, was placed in Group B, along with Argentina, Morocco, and Ukraine.

Indonesia, finishing fourth in the Asian final qualifying round, will compete against Guinea from Africa for the last spot in the playoffs to be held in France on the 9th of this month. If successful, Indonesia will be placed in Group A, alongside France, the United States, and New Zealand.

In the Paris tournament, the top two teams from the qualifying league will advance to the final tournament, followed by the quarterfinals.

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