Confidence keeps Japan on course

Published on: 25 June 2018

Takashi Inui cancelled out Sadio Mane’s opener before Keisuke Honda came off the bench to claim a second equaliser 12 minutes from time after Moussa Wague had put Senegal back in front as the teams shared the points.

The draw means the pair are locked together on four points from their first two games in Group H and the Japanese are continuing to grow in confidence after a challenging build-up to the Finals.

“We had a really difficult time but we were confident and that’s why we had this result,” said Southampton defender Yoshida. 

“To be honest with you, we wanted to get the three points because it makes it easier for us in the next game. They’re a good team and I think for both of us one point is OK.”

Nishino named the same starting line-up as the one that won 2-1 against Colombia in his team’s opening game, despite being expected to take a more defensive approach against a talented Senegalese side.

It was that bold approach from the former Gamba Osaka coach that allowed Japan to match the African side after a difficult opening 30 minutes, with Inui’s low curler levelling the scores after Mane had capitalised on a mistake by Eiji Kawashima to put Senegal in front.

Yuya Osako missed a gilt-edged chance to give Japan the lead on the hour mark and Inui rattled the crossbar before Wague rifled the ball home at the other end to put Senegal back in front.

But Honda, who had replaced Shinji Kagawa after another effective performance by the Borussia Dortmund man, netted the second equaliser from close range to leave Japan unbeaten going into their final group game against Poland on Thursday.



“We fought well and we’ve done well so far,” said Yoshida. “But there’s nothing done yet and we have to focus on the game against Poland to try to get the three points and then we will see what happens after that. Hopefully we’ll go through to the next round.”

Japan’s performance so far in Russia has come despite a difficult build-up that saw Vahid Halilhodzic replaced as head coach by Nishino just two months before the tournament, but Yoshida did not see the switch as the key to the team’s improvements.

“There’s been no big change,” he said. “Basically, it’s almost the same as the previous manager. (Nishino) wants us to control the game more, to keep the ball more and we’ve done that in the last two games. I think it’s much better than a couple of months ago, but there’s nothing done yet. We’ll just focus on the next game.

“I think we came back twice very well and it was not easy against them but I feel, especially in the second half, we could have gotten the three points as well.

“To be fair, one point is fair enough. They’re a very good team and Sadio’s my old friend and it was nice to see him and hopefully we both go through to the next round.”