After going 1-0 down against Turkmenistan, an expectant Japan side rallied to claim a 3-2 victory in their opening match. Here is Football Tribe Japan’s analysis of why the Samurai Blues initially struggled, and how they ultimately emerged victorious.
Southampton's Maya Yoshida made the difference in this match. He delayed Turkmenistan's counter-attacks at a distance. Nonetheless, it is a problem that his teammates are still hesitant to press and challenge quickly in advanced positions.
Middle Third Didn't Work Defensively
Turkmenistan's pressing forced Japan to play forward passes, which they would then use to hit on counter-attacks which the middle of Japan's midfield was vulnerable to. Shibasaki's positioning put him in a place to challenge, but ultimately his defensive ability was inadequate.
Japan fixed their attacking problems in the second half and did not have risk management for the counter. Tomiyasu had to do a lot of tasks, meaning that his return to a defensive posture was often delayed, resulting in a shortage of manpower for the Samurai Blue. With full-backs Nagatomo and Sakai on the offensive, Japan were often vulnerable to counter-attacks.
Work from Wide Positions
From the start of the second half, Japan took their fullbacks forward and succeeded in splitting defense of Turkmenistan by expanding the width of their attacks. As a result, Turkmenistan's defender found it difficult to keep their central area solid. Japan repeated the side change and beat Turkmenistan's defense with quick, driven passes.
Making one-on-one Situations
In terms of the player's ability, Japan are overwhelmingly superior to Turkmenistan. Japan's attempts to spread the play out wide weakened Turkmenistan's ability to maintain their shape. While they managed to match up two-on-one in the first half, in the second the Samurai Blue were able to get themselves into far more favorable one-on-one situations.