Asia FIFA World Cup

Japan Crush Syria in Hiroshima to Seal Perfect Run

Japan concluded their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying second round with an impeccable record, overwhelming Syria 5-0 at the EDION Peace Wing in Hiroshima on Tuesday, courtesy of three rapid first-half goals that ensured the Samurai Blue would finish the round with six wins out of six.

Ayase Ueda initiated the scoring spree in the 13th minute, followed by Ritsu Doan six minutes later. A Thaer Krouma own goal in the 21st minute put Japan in a commanding position in the encounter, a match that Syria had to win if they stand a chance to qualify into both the next round of World Cup qualifiers as well as the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

Hector Cuper brought three naturalized debutants from South America for Syria’s visit to Hiroshima – Argentine-born goalkeeper Esteban Glellel, Chilean-born defender Emiliano Amor, and Argentine-born striker Tobias Cervera – to go alongside existing naturalized talents in Ezequiel Ham, Elmar Abraham, and Jalil Elias, however these reinforcements could not do anything as Japan utterly dominated the Middle Easterners.

The heavy defeat, combined with North Korea’s resounding 4-1 win over Myanmar, meant that it was Kim Jong-un’s hermit nation that went through to both the next round of qualifiers and the Asian Cup alongside Japan, with Syria having to drop down into the Asian Cup qualifiers. In response to this painful defeat and elimination from World Cup contention, former Real Madrid head coach Cuper immediately tendered his resignation following the match.

With a win required to progress, Syrian captain Omar Al Somah tried to make an early impact, curling a long-range shot wide of Keisuke Osako’s post in the seventh minute.

Moments later, Japan’s precision threatened the Syrian defense as Takumi Minamino’s precise pass set Keito Nakamura free down the left, though Takefusa Kubo’s ensuing shot sailed over the bar.

This close call preceded Japan’s breakthrough. Wataru Endo initiated a smooth attack from deep within Japan’s half, passing to Minamino, who fed the ball to Nakamura on the left. Nakamura’s cross was perfectly met by Ueda, who delivered a powerful header into the top corner, giving Japan a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute.

Japan doubled their advantage six minutes later. Keito Nakamura’s incisive pass found Kubo, who advanced through the middle and switched the play to Doan on the right. Doan cut inside and placed a low shot past goalkeeper Glellel from the edge of the box.

Japan’s relentless pressure paid off again in the 21st minute when Kubo’s attempt to release Nakamura resulted in Krouma inadvertently deflecting the ball past his own goalkeeper, extending Japan’s lead to 3-0.

Ueda forced a save from Glellel, and Minamino’s effort was blocked by Amor, as Japan’s aggressive approach kept Syria on the back foot, ensuring a comfortable lead at halftime.

After the break, Japan continued to dominate, with Yuki Soma converting a penalty 17 minutes from time, and Minamino adding a fifth goal in the closing stages – ensuring an emphatic win for Japan and a painful elimination from the World Cup qualifiers for Syria, who, earlier this year, impressed many by advancing into the round of 16 of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar.