East Asia Japan

Samurai Blue Fire Blanks as Indomitable Lions Held On for Draw

Japan were held to a goalless draw by Cameroon in a friendly match on Friday at the Stadion Galgenwaard in Utrecht, Netherlands. Hajime Moriyasu’s Samurai Blue were inefficient in attack in their first match of 2020, with the COVID-19-enforced hiatus clearly making Japan looking rusty in their match against their African counterparts. 

Head coach Moriyasu was forced to draft in a squad made up entirely of overseas-based players, with current quarantine measures requiring J.League players to undergo two weeks worth of quarantine should they get selected for both this match and Japan’s second friendly in the Netherlands against Ivory Coast on Tuesday next week. Notable players in Moriyasu’s squad for the Netherlands friendlies are Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino, Villarreal’s Takefusa Kubo, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Daichi Kamada, and captain Maya Yoshida of Sampdoria.

Fresh from making the cross from Japan to European shores, Musashi Suzuki (Beerschot) and Sei Muroya (Hannover 96) were also selected by Moriyasu.

Genk’s Junya Ito was the standout performer for Japan on Friday, as the substitute’s constant movement down the right wing tested the Cameroonian defense a number of times. Ito’s crosses enabled Japan to carve out numerous chances in the second half, however Cameroon’s disciplined defense meant that the Samurai Blue were unable to pry the Indomitable Lions open.

19-year old wonderkid Kubo, on loan at Villarreal from fellow La Liga side Real Madrid, had the chance to break the deadlock open with virtually the last shot of the game, but Cameroon goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa managed to pull off a wonderful save to deny Kubo. Ondoa, who ply his trade in the Belgian Pro League with Oostende, managed to tip Kubo’s free-kick over the bar with his fingertips, capping off an excellent game of his own.

Understandably, Moriyasu was not too pleased with the goalless draw, but at the same time he has some words of appreciation for his team’s tenacity.

“It’s not a satisfactory result and we had some tough spells,” Moriyasu said, “But despite the frustrating moments, we never lose our composure or our cohesion and fought hard right until the end.”

Japan will stay in Utrecht for their second friendly match against Ivory Coast, which, like the match against Cameroon, will be played behind closed doors. With both the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 FIFA World Cup AFC Zone qualifiers being postponed until next year, Moriyasu’s using this opportunity to prepare his team by combining experienced combatants and youth talents with the two friendlies.