AFC Asian Cup 2023: Minamino stars in Japan’s comeback 4-2 win over Vietnam

From the opening whistle, Japan sought to attack as it got off to a winning start at the AFC Asian Cup.

Published : Jan 14, 2024 19:43 IST , Doha - 3 MINS READ

Japan’s Takumi Minamino celebrates scoring against Vietnam in the AFC Asian Cup.
Japan’s Takumi Minamino celebrates scoring against Vietnam in the AFC Asian Cup. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Japan’s Takumi Minamino celebrates scoring against Vietnam in the AFC Asian Cup. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

A brace by Takumi Minamino and a goal each by Keito Nakamura and Ayase Ueda saw Japan cruise to a 4-2 win against Vietnam in a Group D AFC Asian Cup match at the Al Thumama Stadium here on Sunday.

At kick-off, eight of Japan’s 10 players stood on the halfway line and just when the referee blew his whistle, Japan chose violence. Kou Itakura’s long ball found Keito Nakamura on the left flank, who threaded a pass through to Mao Hosoya along the wings.

Though the build-up did not change the scoreline, Hajime Moriyasu – Japan’s coach – made it clear that his boys meant business. And after 11 minutes, it was 1-0 up.

Junya Ito’s corner kick was brought down by Itakura and was shot on target by Yukinari Sugawara, forcing a block by the boys in red. Minamino then struck the second ball, breaking the deadlock.

Vietnam, however, did not retreat into a defensive hole, temporarily even pushing the four-time champion on the backfoot with clinical attacks. In the first half, it got two set-piece opportunities and converted both of them into goals.

Do Hung Dung’s corner kick was headed by Nguyen Dinh Bac close to Zion Suzuki’s near post, whose misjudgement saw the ball fly into the net. Then before the half-hour mark, Phan Tuan Tai’s free-kick to the far post was headed by Bui Hoang Viet Anh on goal, which Suzuki parried it into the path of Pham Tuan Hai, who made no mistake in making it 2-1 for Vietnam.

READ | AFC Asian Cup 2023: Full points table LIVE, goals scored, goal difference

Moriyasu, who kept writing notes during the game, changed his team’s strategy from long balls to ground passes and more build-up through the middle immediately. And the equaliser arrived in the last minute of first-half regulation time.

The past and present of Liverpool, Minamino and Wataru Endo, combined, with the former receiving the ball in the box and guiding it past Nguyen Filip, into the bottom-right corner.

Minamino turned creator four minutes later, when he passed the ball to Nakamura on his left. The State de Reims midfielder twisted left and right and then took a right-footed shot from just outside the 18-yard box that curled into the net, getting Japan back on the front seat before the break.

In the second half, Japan shifted from 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 and, at times, 4-5-1 shape, maintaining a heavy mid-block and stringent discipline, not giving away a single corner. It bogged down Vietnam’s intensity of attack significantly, reducing its shots on target to just one in the second half.

Moriyasu’s second-half substitutions bore fruits too, with three of them combining for the final goal of the game. Starting with Endo, the ball moved from Ritsu Doan to Takefusa Kubo to Ueda, whose shot, after a deflection off Phan Tuan Tai, sealed the victory for the Blue Samurais.

Japan plays Iraq next, on January 19 while Vietnam will face Indonesia in its group-stage fixture on the same day.

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