‘Not good enough!’ Ja­pan cap­tain Yoshida sounds Asian Cup alarm

The Borneo Post - - SPORT -

ABU DHABI: Ja­pan cap­tain Maya Yoshida has warned the Blue Sa­mu­rai they will need to find an ex­tra gear to chal­lenge co­favourites Iran and South Korea for the Asian Cup ti­tle.

The Southamp­ton de­fender ad­mit­ted Ja­pan had ben­e­fited from two con­tro­ver­sial penalty de­ci­sions af­ter a 1- 0 vic­tory over Oman in Abu Dhabi at the week­end sent the Blue Sa­mu­rai into the last 16.

“We have to be more clin­i­cal,” Yoshida told AFP af­ter Ja­pan’s sec­ond straight win in Group F.

“We should have scored two or three more. Our per­for­mances are still not good enough clearly.”

Genki Haraguchi con­verted from the spot af­ter 28 min­utes af­ter tum­bling the­atri­cally un­der lit­tle or no con­tact.

Oman then had a le­git­i­mate penalty shout waved off af­ter Yuto Na­gatomo ap­peared to use his hand to block a shot just be­fore half-time.

“We were a lit­tle bit lucky with the penalty we had — and the one not given as well,” shrugged Yoshida.

“But the most im­por­tant point for us was to get through the group.”

Na­gatomo likened his lucky es­cape to Diego Maradona’s in­fa­mous in­ter­ven­tion against Eng­land at the 1986 World Cup, ex­press­ing relief that the VAR (video as­sis­tant ref­eree) sys­tem is not used dur­ing the Asian Cup group stages.

“It hit my hand,” he ad­mit­ted. “It’s lucky there was no VAR be­cause it prob­a­bly would have been given. Hap­pily the ‘Hand of God’ was with us to­day.”

A new- l ook Ja­pan wer e sim­i­larly unim­pres­sive in beat­ing Turk­menistan 3-2 in their open­ing fix­ture, but were miss­ing two-goal hero Yuya Osako for the Oman clash due to a thigh in­jury.

The Werder Bre­men striker was sorely missed against the Gulf side, with Takumi Mi­namino squan­der­ing a hat­ful of chances.

“It was tougher than we thought it would be,” con­ceded Yoshida.

“If we had taken our chances we wouldn’t have strug­gled so much late on. But I’m con­fi­dent we will find our form.”

Ja­pan, who reached the knock­out stage at last year’s World Cup, have won a record four Asian Cups but

We were a lit­tle bit lucky with the penalty we had — and the one not given as well.

ap­pear to lack the qual­ity of Iran and South Korea at this year’s tour­na­ment.

“We can’t ex­pect to dom­i­nate ev­ery game,” said Ja­pan coach Ha­jime Moriyasu, who is un­beaten in seven matches since tak­ing over af­ter the World Cup.

“It was im­por­tant to get through the group and we have done that. The key will be to grow into the tour­na­ment game by game.”

But Yoshida in­sisted Iran, who are purring, and a South Korea side boosted by the ar­rival of Tot­ten­ham for­ward Son He­ung-min will be the teams to beat — along with hold­ers Aus­tralia.

“I saw Iran at the World Cup, where they played re­ally well,” said the 30-year- old.

“I was re­ally im­pressed. And of course Aus­tralia, South Korea — they’re al­ways the most dif­fi­cult op­po­nents.

“We have to make sure we’re ready for them, we have to im­prove.” — AFP

Maya Yoshida, Ja­pan cap­tain

Ja­pan’s de­fender Maya Yoshida (left) heads the ball dur­ing the 2019 AFC Asian Cup group F foot­ball match be­tween Oman and Ja­pan at Hazza bin Zayed Sta­dium in Abu Dhabi. — AFP photo

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