Having treated their semifinal clash against IR Iran as a final, Japan and Maya Yoshida now prepare for the real final as they face Qatar in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 final.
In a 3-0 victory, the Japanese were impressive against Team Melli, with Yuya Osako scoring a brace while Genki Haraguchi also found his name in the scoring column as Japan hope to win their fifth title in the competition.
Highlights – Iran vs Japan
As for Yoshida, he revels in the result and is happy to have helped with the result.
Speaking to AFC, the Southampton man said: “It was a semi-final, but I felt like it was going to be more like a final,” he said. “We had to prepare very well, mentally and physically.
“I think we showed a great performance, kept another clean sheet, scored three goals, but one more to go, so we have to show even more desire and passion to be ready for the final.
“I thought it was going to be more tough, but Osako was back and everyone played very well and sacrificed for the team, and kept pressuring every time.
“The goals are important but also the defensive side played very well and that’s why we kept a clean sheet. 3-0 is fantastic I think.”
Ahead of their match against Japan, IR Iran were on fire having scored 12 goals and had yet to concede on but Japan were ready as coach Hajime Moriyasu had a brilliant game plan that the team executed perfectly.
“(Iran are) defensively organised, counter attack, (and focused) especially on number 20 (Sardar Azmoun) who is their key player as a target, so don’t let him play in deep areas,” Yoshida said.
“We played well, we won the first ball every time, then the second ball, then reorganised the game and we dominated. (To score) three goals is fantastic.”
As one of the more experienced players of the current squad, Yoshida is now the skipper and he relishes the new role he has having replaced Makoto Hasebe as captain
He said: “It’s a new role for me, and I’m really enjoying my role,” he claimed. “It’s going be tough because Hasebe had a long time taking the responsibility, but I’m really enjoying my time as a captain and I hope I can lead the team higher.
“I try to let (the younger players) play more comfortably, and with confidence, but also I want them to feel they are taking responsibility for representing the national team.
“These are important things for new players. I want them to enjoy the final.”