Japan came to the Asian Cup final, wishing to make history and finish the tournament as the first team ever to win five Asian title. Yet, the Blue Samurais failed to handle the opponents from Qatar tonight. They lost 3-1 and saw their opponents celebrate.
Even though they finished the tournament with a disappointing result, Japan can conclude this tournament with several important ideas for the future.
First of all, the Japanese made several performances during the tournament that presented how much they are disciplined and skilled. Except from their win against Iran in the semi final, Japan managed to win by a single goal.
Hajime Moriyasu managed his players well and they played decently both while defending and attacking. Every time, even when Japan played in the expected style, the opponents couldn't really threat them.
From now on, Japan will need to find a way to improve it and adjust their tactics depending on the match. Qatar easily broke the Japanese defensive line and after that Japan failed to recover. No matter if Moriyasu will keep his role or it will be another manager that will lead Japan, if they will do it, they can be tactically better than any other team in Asia.
After veteran players like Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazakai left their places in the national team, a new great generation is rising. We saw two younger players that impressed during the tournament – 24 year-old Takumi Minamino and 20 year-old Ritsu Doan.
In recent years, the youth teams of Japan made great achievements and they are now preparing for another major tournament as the host of the 2020 Olympic Games. Now, for three years Japan can build a strong squad on their preparations to the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Moreover they will be experienced enough in playing international football at senior level.
There is one point that should be marked for these players. Although they all play in European clubs and face bigger challenges, they all were part of defeats in crucial moments with their team.
Losing against South Korea in 2012 Olympics third place game, being knocked out against UAE in 2015 Asian Cup and the defeat against Belgium in 2018 World Cup. Japan is always making great tournaments but failing in the money time.
Japan will need to learn how to get over these memories and doing their best. Will this generation know how to use their skills in order to do it?