AFC Asian Cup 2019: Iran’s class has been on show, but we want to beat them – Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu

Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu has said that IR Iran’s class has been proven in the AFC Asian Cup 2019, but his players will do their best to get a win when the two teams meet in the semifinal on Monday.

The Samurai Blue are the most successful national team in the Asian Cup history winning the title on four occasions while Iran haven’t tasted success after their third title win back in 1976.

However, Team Melli are firm favourites to lift the trophy this time around solely based on the performances they have produced in the United Arab Emirates so far. But Japan coach Moriyasu knows what it will take for his team to beat their West Asian opponents.

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“Iran are a top class team, both in Asia and in the FIFA rankings and that has been shown at the Asian Cup,” Moriyasu said at the news conference ahead of the game. “We respect every opponent, but it’s about how we express our own football and utmost quality and that will be the same [on Monday],” he said.

“In order to win, we will play aggressively and I want the players to do their utmost on the pitch,” he said.

Japan have so far one all five of their matches in the Asian Cup by one-goal margin and Moriyasu have come under some criticism for his safety-first approach. But he is someone who knows football is not just about attacking.

“Football is a game about scoring goals, but before that you have to win the ball and I want my players to show their strong spirit around the ball and to win the ball. After that, we want to play both offensively and defensively,” he said.

“The players know that we are playing with persistence and they are trying each time to express our team concept. I want them to do the same thing [against Iran], to play aggressively and hopefully get the result,” Moriyasu said.

The former Japan international also said that his time is improving match by match. “When we came to this tournament we already knew every game would be difficult and we prepared for that. We’re not a perfect team and we’re not a mature team, so we’re developing in every game we play,” he said.

“In each game, the players are learning as well as getting the result and moving to the next step. Winning by small margins is important because winning is important no matter how we play,” he said.

The 50-year-old who won the Asian Cup in 1992 is looking to become the first person to win the trophy both as a player and a coach. And the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima midfielder thinks the football in Japan has seen tremendous improvement from his playing days.

“When I was a player, Japan was transitioning from amateurism to professionalism and at the first Asian Cup in Japan, I felt the attention from the people was growing higher and higher each time we played. We had never won the title, so we had a lot of motivation,” Moriyasu reminisced the time when Japan won their first Asian Cup title when the tournament was held on their home soil in 1992.

“Now, the J.League has matured and more Japanese players are playing in the top leagues in Europe and abroad. But I think the mood of the national team and the fact they play as a unit, that has stayed the same after many years and the motivation of the players towards the national team is the same.”

“But now winning is normal and the players have to play with a lot of pressure and that’s the different part,” he said.

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