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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

Asian Cup: Japan improving with every game, says Hajime Moriyasu

Manager praises Blue Samurai for being able to eke out wins ahead of quarter-final clash with Vietnam

The gist of what Hajime Moriyasu had to say in Wednesday's pre-match news conference was clear: outcome matters more than process.

The Japan manager should know. His side have been far from convincing at the 2019 Asian Cup despite winning every match en route to Thursday's quarter-final against Vietnam at Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai.

The Blue Samurai topped Group F by beating Turkmenistan (3-2), Oman (1-0) and Uzbekistan (2-1). Then they overcame Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the last 16.

On the other hand, the Golden Dragons progressed as one of the four best third-placed teams in the group stage despite having won just one game in Group D - a 2-0 result against Yemen. And yet, there is good reason for Japan to be wary of Vietnam: they shocked Jordan in a penalty shootout in the last 16.

Moriyasu was cognisant of this fact on Wednesday.

“Vietnam are a good team and they have shown their abilities in no small way," he said. "They are one of the most improved teams in East Asia, and they will be motivated after reaching the last-eight stage.”

The former Japan international, however, insisted his side are improving with every game.

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“For us, the results are important because results cannot be reversed," the 50-year-old said. "Once you lose, you are out of the competition. So, we have been achieving the results and that has kept us in the competition.

"The performances are also important, but they can be improved as we progress in the tournament."

The other challenge for the 2011 champions has been a lack of preparation time; they return to action two days after beating Saudi Arabia.

“The time between matches is very tight, but players are ready for the game both physically and mentally,” he said.

Meanwhile, Japan midfielder Gaku Shibasaki said his team would have to play their best football against Vietnam.

“We watched their matches on video, and we have our gameplan prepared,” he said. “They are a young team and a good team, and a team with the momentum on their side.

"We obviously need to play better [than against Saudi Arabia], which we hope to do by strengthening the tactics and techniques."

But Shibasaki, himself only 26 years old, was eager to point out that Japan were also fielding a young side in the UAE.

"We are looking ahead to the 2022 World Cup, and the Asian Cup will be a stepping stone,” he said.

Updated: January 23, 2019 09:20 PM

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