Asian Cup 2019: Final defeat provides 'base for Japan to grow', says Hajime Moriyasu

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Pragmatic head coach Hajime Moriyasu has declared defeat in Friday’s Asian Cup 2019 showpiece has provided a “base for Japan to grow” in the years ahead.

The Samurai Blue selected a youthful squad in the UAE, with the likes of Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda leading the celebrated absentees from the group that made World Cup 2018’s round of 16. This new generation was denied a record-extending fifth continental triumph because of final-debutants Qatar’s 3-1 victory at Zayed Sports City.

Moriyasu, however, was convinced valuable lessons had been learned by the likes of highly rated Groningen winger Ritsu Doan and Sint-Truiden centre-back Takehiro Tomiyasu on the way to the 2019 Copa America, Tokyo 2020 Olympics and World Cup 2022.

“The goal was to be champions,” said the 50-year-old former Japan midfielder, who assisted Akira Nishino in Russia. “This meant a lot for the team.

“We wanted a mixture of young and experienced players. By playing seven matches, we could improve ourselves in different types of matches.

“I want to thank the experienced players for their approach and for young players expressing themselves on the field. I want young players to keep staying hungry after this result.

“This tournament will be the base for Japan to grow a team from now on. My role is to watch the process of how things are going.

“I want my staff and players to be proud of what they have done in this tournament.”

Qatar went ahead in the 12th minute when striker Almoez Ali produced an elegant overhead kick and became the highest scorer in a single Asian Cup with nine goals. Midfielder Abdulaziz Hatem doubled the lead on 27 minutes with a refined curled shot from 25 yards.

Takumi Minamino’s intricately-worked dinked effort on 69 minutes caused the Qatar defence to be breached for the first time in the competition. All hope, however, of a comeback was snubbed out when skipper Maya Yoshida handled 2018 AFC Player of the Year Abdelkarim Hassan’s header and the video-assistant referee awarded a penalty that was confidently converted by forward Akram Afif.

Moriyasu said: “We lost the first goal when there was a mismatch in the systems. We made our preparations against Qatar knowing they’d play three defenders, but it’s my responsibility that the players couldn’t express their strengths on the pitch.

“Losing the first two goals made it difficult. We had chances to tie it, but it was very difficult.

“Qatar really had a tight defence.”

Japan are next scheduled to play friendlies against Colombia and Bolivia in March.

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