Fighting spirit gets Japan into Asian Cup final

Sports | 30 Jan 2019

Japanese footballers might be best known for their technical skills but it was their fighting spirit that got them past Iran and into the Asian Cup final, says coach Hajime Moriyasu.

A headed goal and a penalty from striker Yuya Osako in the second half crushed the spirit of the physical Iranians before Genki Haraguchi made it 3-0 in stoppage time to send the Samurai Blue into a fifth continental title decider.

"Iran have had great results in the past and we knew they were going to be a very tough opponent, but the players had prepared well and they showed great fighting spirit," Moriyasu said.

"They didn't forget to have the mindset of challengers and that gave us the win. The atmosphere was like an away game for us but there were many Japanese supporters and many people back home supporting us too.

"I'm happy the players could show the spirit to fight and to deliver a good result."

The Japanese had hardly set the tournament on fire with their previous performances in the United Arab Emirates, winning their three group games by the margin of a single goal and knockout matches against Saudi Arabia and Vietnam 1-0.

"I don't think we changed compared to how we have played in the previous matches, but what our players did against Iran was try to perform their best individually and as a team and play for the result," Moriyasu added.

"Knowing that Iran have a strong attack and are strong physically, the players were aggressive and showed a lot of fighting spirit, and that was the difference."

Japan have won all four of their previous tournament finals and will go into Friday's showpiece against either hosts UAE or Qatar at Zayed Sports City as favorites.

Former Japan under-23 coach Moriyasu said they would maintain their pragmatic approach against whoever got through last night's second semi-final in Abu Dhabi.

"There wasn't just one style of play in this match, but the players showed flexibility and that's what got us the result," he said.

REUTERS

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