Japan’s insipid performance threatens their World Cup ambitions.
It’s hard to understand Japan’s gameplan against Costa Rica on Sunday at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
They likely wanted to give the opponents a false feeling of security.
That’s the only way to explain a mediocre first half from both teams, which left 41,479 fans wondering what all the hype was about.
Japan was to blame for the gloominess. They had recently won 2-1 against Germany four days before, knowing that success would nearly ensure them a spot in the Round of 16.
For all their possession, they didn’t seem interested in finding another way to score when wing play failed.
Even if the objective was to boring Costa Rica into submission (it wasn’t), the problem?
Keysher Fuller scored on a defensive mistake with nine minutes left to give Costa Rica a 1-0 win against Japan.
After overcoming Germany, the Japanese must now face Spain to proceed to the knockout phase.
The players must take responsibility for a lacklustre performance.
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu has made some odd squad choices.
Ritsu Doan, Ayase Ueda, and Yuki Soma replaced Takefusa Kubo, Daizen Maeda, and Junya Ito in attack.
Doan’s promotion from the bench was reasonable after he scored the equaliser against Germany, but the choice of Ueda and Soma — both with fewer than ten caps — was puzzling, particularly with Kaoru Mitoma, Takuma Asano, and Takumi Minamino waiting in the wings.
Doan, Ueda, Soma, and playmaker-in-chief Daichi Kamada spent the first half looking like a new foursome. They haven’t, however.
Wataru Endo and Hidemasa Morita won control in the centre of the field, but Samurai Blue couldn’t connect more than three passes together in the final third.
Moriyasu switched to a back-three at halftime, the same tactic that helped them beat Germany.
Instead of Takehiro Tomiyasu, who played well four days earlier, Hiroki Ito came in as an additional center-back and frequently gave the ball away with messy long passes that bordered on comical efforts.
Mitoma, possibly Japan’s most entertaining player, came on after the hour mark and immediately caused Costa Rica issues down the left.
Sadly for Japan, he was alone. Too many around him had self-induced lethargy.
Costa Rica found a last-minute spark to win.
Japan must now rise from their sleep if they don’t want their World Cup campaign to end in the group stage.
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