Japan began their campaign as a guest side in the 2019 Copa America with a 4-0 loss against Chile at the Estadio do Morumbi in Sao Paulo.
The Samurai Blues have taken a young side to the competition, comprised mostly of players that are eligible for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo next year. Many of the players selected were even uncapped before the tournament, indicating clearly that Japan intend to play the long game with developing their team.
Unfortunately, that approach has come at the detriment of short term success, as was evidenced by their opening game of the tournament. It took Chile until four minutes before half-time to get the ball rolling, when Erick Pulgar scored with a header from a corner kick.
Japanese had the perfect chance to hit back when Ayase Ueda got on the end of an excellent delivery by Gaku Shibasaki but was ultimately his outstretched leg was unable to find the net.
The Chileans then doubled their lead in the 54th minute, when Eduardo Vargas and Mauricio Isla linking up down the right-hand side. Vargas struck Isla’s return pass with his first touch, sending it flying into the top corner of Keisuke Osako’s net.
Alexis Sanchez hit Chile’s third with a diving header at the back post in the 82nd minute, sealing the three points for his side. Eduardo Vargas completed his brace a minute later, chipping the onrushing Osako to complete a highly flattering scoreline for La Roja.
Despite the 4-0 defeat, Japan managed 13 shots compared to Chile’s 15, and missed a number of golden opportunities throughout the match.
Elsewhere in the group, Uruguay beat Ecuador by the same scoreline, cementing their status as one of the favorites to win the competition. Japan are set to face Uruguay on Thursday, June 20th.