Kelvin Leong reckons Iran’s tactical indiscipline was the key reason for their shocking loss to Japan who move on to the Asian Cup 2019 final.
Japan are through to the AFC Asian Cup 2019 final after a scintillating 3-0 victory over Iran in the semifinal on Monday night.
A brace from Yuya Osako got the Samurai Blue over the line but Iran created their own downfall when they allowed emotions to get the better of them.
Here are five talking points from the game…
1. Both sides show quality from the first whistle
Normally when two teams step out for a game of such magnitude, things start off tentative with some cautious probing before the engines start.
This game did not follow the script as Iran and Japan came out and showed top quality on the ball from the get go.
The boys in blue had the better of the opening exchanges and could have opened the scoring had Yuto Nagatomo’s cross been more precise but the Iranian defence stood resolute.
15 minutes flew by just like that and the pattern of play began to tell as Japan persisted with their patient buildup play while Iran were content with getting the ball up to Sardar Azmoun to chase.
2. Samurai Blue find new leader in Tomiyasu
Japan came into this tournament with a solid centre-back pairing of Southampton FC’s Maya Yoshida and Urawa Red Diamonds’ Tomaki Makino.
Between them, experience was abundant but manager Hajime Moriyasu saw enough in Takehiro Tomiyasu to change the system.
The 20-year-old started the opening game in midfield while Makino was in defence but since then, Japan have banked on the form of Tomiyasu who has become captain Yoshida’s first-choice centre-back partner.
Moriyasu’s reading of the game is beyond his age and with Makino and Yoshida moving towards the latter part of their career, this boy is the future of Samurai Blue.
If this is him at 20, another few years in Belgium where he plays his club football will surely groom him into one of Asia’s best defenders.
3. Iran pay price for not playing to the whistle
AFC Asian Cup 2019: IR Iran 0-1 Japan – Yuya Osako (56′)
The entire Iran bench were up in arms after Osako headed in the first goal, claiming injustice from the refereeing side of things.
Just before Takumi Minamino put in the cross for Osako to score, he went sprawling across the turf after a Mohammad Kanani tackle and the Iranians waved off claims of a foul, while the accused went on to retrieve the ball and put in the winning cross.
Truth is, from the day you turned professional, you have always been taught to play to the whistle instead of taking things into your own hands.
Japan might have asked for a foul but Iran players allowed the emotions of the game to take control and they paid a huge price for their misjudgment.
4. Osako and Doan takes Japan’s unbeaten run to 17
AFC Asian Cup 2019: IR Iran 0-2 Japan – Yuya Osako (67′)
The last time Japan lost an Asian Cup game was in 2007 against Saudi Arabia. Since then, they have won 12 and drawn four, with this game making it 17 matches unbeaten.
They haven’t been at their best all tournament but they are what you call a tournament team. They know how to win ugly when it matters and they never quite lose their shape tactically.
Two players have shaped their run to the final and they are two-goal hero Osako and the diminutive small forward Ritsu Doan.
Osaka has toughened up his game to become a modern-day European forward who has the muscle to match Iran while 20-year-old Doan is the latest attacking wizard to come off Japan’s illustrious chain of pint-sized playmakers.
If they are to win a fifth Asian Cup title and make it 18 games unbeaten, Moriyasu must hope the attacking duo deliver, while Tomiyasu marshals the defence.
5. Iran’s game plan make or break with Azmoun
If Iran harboured thoughts of winning their first Asian Cup title in 43 years, it all vanished rapidly through Carlos Queiroz’s lack of tactical options.
No doubt the Iranians looked superb in the group stages and flashed by China in style but it was always about one man by the name of Sardar Azmoun.
Route A football with an early ball over the top for Azmoun to chase. When they got the ball down the flanks, there was only Azmoun in the box to aim for.
Quairoz has been with Team Melli for a long time now and he should have known that in a big tournament like this one, you need to have a Plan B or a tactical switch as an option.
This Iran squad have been the most outstanding team at the Asian Cup and on paper and on form, they should be in the final. But they just didn’t have the tactical nous to do it.