Japan have been efficient if not spectacular in their defense of the Asian Cup. They dealt with Palestine easily and eased past Iraq. Against Jordan the Japanese had a chance to finish Group D on top with a 100% record and set themselves up for a mouthwatering with the technically proficient United Arab Emirates.
Jordan for their part had a chance of advancing to the quarters provided they defeated Japan.
The Japanese notched up a regulation win with little fuss and didn’t allow Jordan to get into the game. However, this was not the complete performance from Japan and in truth they should have been out of sight by the time the first half ended.
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1. Okazaki vital to Japan’s hopes:
Japan are a neat and tidy side full of talented technicians like Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Takashi Inui but despite the blistering start to the game Japan were trying to be a bit too intricate at times. Shinji Okazaki was key to breaking the deadlock in the 24th minute getting into a good position on the left hand side of the penalty area and opting to shoot instead of trying to cross the ball for a teammate to tap in.
Okazaki’s effort forced Jordanian keeper Amer Shafi into a good save but the latter only succeeded in deflecting the ball into Keisuke Honda’s path.
On top of his willingness to shoot Okazaki’s work rate was phenomenal. He was vital to Japan’s game plan to pin the Jordanians in their own half. Defensively, he worked hard to close down the opposition and press the ball. When his team were on the front foot he made a number of intelligent runs, creating space and options for his teammate.
Okazaki provides a directness that Japan don’t otherwise possess. His importance to the Samurai Blue cannot be understated.
2. Technique and intensity a winning combination for the Samurai Blue:
Japan started off like a whirlwind and didn’t allow Jordan any time to settle in the match. Intense pressing, quick passing and intelligent runs off the ball made Japan almost impossible to live with. The hardworking Okazaki gave the Jordanian defense no time to think whilst Kagawa, Honda and Takashi Inui constantly interchanged positions posing different questions to the Jordanian backline. The full backs Yuto Nagatomo and Gōtoku Sakai had the freedom to raid down the flanks taking advantage Honda’s and Inui’s infield darts from wide areas.