Japan defensive midfielder Wataru Endo has said that the Blue Samurai will look to stick to their playing style as they face IR Iran in the semifinal of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on Monday.
Endo has started in his defensive midfielder role in three of the five games Japan have played in the Asian Cup so far — including in the wins over Saudi Arabia and Vietnam in the knockout stages. And the 25-year-old thinks Japan have what it takes to beat Carlos Queiroz’s Iran.
“We know that Iran is a strong opponent, but we want to play our own football. We want to play as challengers and I think throughout the tournament we have been adapting well when we have had difficulties on the pitch or when we’re in a bad rhythm. So we want to continue that. And individually I want to be focused on my tasks,” said the midfielder.
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“First of all we want to gain possession of the ball, that’s important to how we play and without that it can’t happen. Iran can play that way too, but they can respond quickly with long balls too and we’ll have to adjust to that situation,” said Endo, whose task will include breaking down Iran’s moves in the midfield.
Endo currently plays club football in the Belgium Pro League with Sint-Truidense VV after moving to the club last year from J.League’s Urawa Red Diamonds. And he believes the European sojourn has helped him improve as a player.
“As a team and as an individual we had some regrets after the 2018 FIFA World Cup,” said Endo about the tournament in Russia where they were cruelly knocked out by Belgium in the Round of 16 via a late, late goal from Nacer Chadli.
“After the World Cup, I moved to Europe because I wanted to improve in my position more and, little by little, I think I am expressing myself within the national team and that’s making me more confident,” he said.
“There are a lot of good players in the same position and I don’t think I’ve secured the position in the team yet. I need to continue to perform well and in the future that will lead me to become one of the leading players in the national team. But first of all I want to stay focused for [Monday’s] game,” Endo signed off.