Young Japan will learn from early exit: Coach

BELO HORIZONTE (Brazil) • Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said his team would learn from their Copa America heartbreak after missing out on a place in the quarter-finals following Monday's 1-1 draw with Ecuador.

Shoya Nakajima gave the Blue Samurai a 15th-minute lead in Belo Horizonte while substitute Daizen Maeda had a late chance to win it when put through one-on-one with goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez.

Angel Mena's equaliser on 35 minutes and teenage sensation Takefusa Kubo's injury-time strike chalked off by the video assistant referee, however, meant Japan came up short.

"They're learning to compete with top-level opponents," said Moriyasu, who brought a mostly under-23 team to Brazil as several clubs refused to release regular first-choice players.

"Our players need to learn as much as they can, with great humility, respecting their opponents and understanding that they can develop our football."

This squad will at least form the basis of the U-23 team that competes at next year's Tokyo Olympics.

But it was an inglorious exit for Asia's two guest participants in South America's flagship tournament. Asian champions Qatar finished bottom of Group B with one point from three games, while the team they beat in February's continental final in the United Arab Emirates, again failed to win a match in their second Copa America outing.

However, they improved drastically on their opening match - a 4-0 thrashing by Chile - in drawing their next two games against Uruguay (2-2) and Ecuador.

"It's a shame that we couldn't progress to the next stage, we need to improve," said Moriyasu.

"Football is improving in Japan and in Asia in a general manner. We've managed to play good matches against strong teams from all over the world."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2019, with the headline 'Young Japan will learn from early exit: Coach'. Print Edition | Subscribe