Friday , July 12 2024

Japan football star Minamino wary of Vietnam clash

Japan’s star attacker Takumi Minamino is confident about winning the 2024 Asian Cup with his national team, but he’s also cautioned the squad about the opener against Vietnam this week.

Japans Takumi Minamino takes a shot during the game with Vietnam in the 2019 Asian Cup quarterfinal game. Photo by VnExpress/Hieu Luong

Japan’s Takumi Minamino (number 9) takes a shot during the game with Vietnam in the 2019 Asian Cup quarterfinal game. Photo by VnExpress/Hieu Luong

Minamino recalled Japan’s difficult start at the 2019 Asian Cup opening match against Turkmenistan.

Japan took the lead in the 26th minute and had to struggle for a dramatic 3-2 win.

The 28-year-old attacking midfielder emphasized that not even one single member of the team can let down their guard even for a second against resilient Vietnam on Jan. 14, even when they’re guarding an unknown opponent.

“A win against Vietnam is the most important thing,” Minamino said before a training session in Qatar. “A surprise in the opening match can always happen, like how we defeated Germany at the 2022 World Cup.”

In that game, Japan let Germany take the lead in the 33rd minute after a penalty by Ilkay Gundogan. However, two goals from Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano in the 75th and 83rd minutes helped Japan create a shocking win, perhaps the biggest upset of the 2022 World Cup.

After that, Japan lost 0-1 to Costa Rica before creating another tournament surprise by coming back to defeat Spain 2-1 and entering the round of 16 as the winner of group E.

Japan have never lost to Vietnam, with four wins and one draw.

Minamino played against Vietnam three times, winning 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Asian Cup, and then subsequently winning 1-0 and drawing 1-1 at the third qualifying round of the 2022 World Cup.

Minamino has played for the Japan national team since 2015, scoring 18 goals in 52 matches.

From playing with Cerezo Osaka, he moved to Austrian club Red Bull Salzburg from 2015 to 2020.

Minamino then became the first Japanese player to play for English club Liverpool. However, his style was different than Liverpool’s, so he went to Southampton on loan in the 2021-2022 season, then signed to French club AS Monaco.

Japan’s national coach Hajime Moriyasu has also expressed wariness about Vietnam.

Moriyasu respects his opponent’s coach Philippe Troussier, who understands Japanese football very well after winning the 2000 Asian Cup with Japan.

Moriyasu said that he personally doesn’t like opening matches because there are always full of potential risks and high pressure.

Japan head to the 2024 Asian Cup as the number one contender for the title. The team have 20 footballers playing in Europe. Minamino, who will turn 29 on Jan. 16, has said that he still regrets that his squad only finished as runner-up in the previous tournament, losing 0-3 to Qatar in the final.

“This [upcoming 2024 Asian Cup] tournament will become meaningless unless Japan win,” he pontificated.

Japan arrived in Qatar on the same day as Vietnam, on Jan. 5.

The team are still missing midfielder Ko Itakura of Borussia Monchengladbach, while stars like Takehiro Tomiyasu, Kaoru Mitoma and Takefusa Kubo have not recovered from injuries.

Japan have established a record winning streak of nine matches, including a 5-0 victory over Thailand on the first day of 2024. The team will play a friendly match against Jordan on Tuesday, before entering the group stage, where they will play Vietnam on Jan. 14, Iraq on the 19th and Indonesia on the 24th.

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