Japan shut out by Switzerland in 2-0 defeat; Osako injured

Japan lost 2-0 to Switzerland on Friday night in a pre-World Cup friendly for both sides, with the hosts rarely ceding control at Stadio di Cornaredo in Lugano, Switzerland.

Just over a week after his experimental three-back formation ended in a 2-0 loss to Ghana, head coach Akira Nishino opted for Japan’s traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. The starting lineup featured just one change from that rainy encounter at Nissan Stadium, with fullback Gotoku Sakai starting on the right side and midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi watching from the bench.

Japan applied pressure early on, with Genki Haraguchi unleashing a wide shot in the sixth minute and Yuya Osako forcing a block by a Swiss defender in the 15th. As time progressed, mid-ranged efforts by Makoto Hasebe and his midfield partner Ryota Oshima were both saved by goalkeeper Roman Burki.

Trouble struck the Samurai Blue in the 35th minute, when Osako was involved in a collision with defender Fabian Schar. The Koln striker could be seen examining his knee and was replaced soon later by Mainz’s Yoshinori Muto in the 40th minute. Just two minutes later, Swiss winger Breel Embolo drew a foul from Maya Yoshida in the penalty area, with Rodriguez converting from the spot to give Switzerland a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.

Things did not improve for Japan, who struggled to break down Switzerland’s possession in the second half. The addition of attacking midfielders Takashi Inui and Shinji Kagawa did little to shift the balance of power, and Japan would eventually allow a second goal to Haris Seferovic in the 82nd minute.

“Our system is coming together but (the problem is) our intensity at the end of the play,” Nishino said after the match. “Switzerland’s centre-backs are incredibly strong, and it’s hard to beat that unless we change.”

Long-time captain Hasebe was not satisfied with the result, which extending the Samurai Blue’s winless streak to seven matches since last October’s 2-1 win over New Zealand.

“What I wanted most was a result, and this loss hurts,” he said. “Lately we’ve been losing these do-or-die encounters. We just have to focus on the final third and improving our finishing.”

In other friendly results featuring Group H clubs, Senegal were defeated 2-1 by Croatia while Poland drew 2-2 with Chile.