Halilhodzic: Japan learned courage

Halilhodzic: Japan learned courage

Japan national team head coach Vahid Halilhodzic praised the courage of his team following their dramatic 2-1 win over Iraq in 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying.

“I want to congratulate my players for playing bravely and with strong feeling to win this game, and thank our supporters for cheering us on until the very end,” he told reporters afterwards. 

“This was an important victory. I told the team to show their emotions. It was a difficult match but a deserved win.

“[Hotaru] Yamaguchi played superbly against Thailand, and (his appearance today) was a tactical choice. I wanted him to press high and finish the play with a shot if he could. 

“His aggressiveness and ball-winning abilities are very interesting. He doesn’t score many goals so today was fantastic. I joked to him and Makoto Hasebe that I would treat them to champagne if they scored, but Yamaguchi deserves two glasses.

“That many of our players can score goals is this team’s strength. [Takuma] Asano had two chances, Yamaguchi had other chances, Maya [Yoshida] had a chance with his header. 

“Everyone created chances. We have to improve our finishing, because we won’t be able to create 10 chances on goal in every match. I’m glad that Yamaguchi scored because he doesn’t score often, but we need players who can score more frequently.

“We’ll change two or three players [for the match against Australia]. The physical component will be very important. The players won’t recover fully in the two days before the match.

“We have a little bit more time but I’m sure the players feel good after this week. We haven’t won like this before. We didn’t just win the match, but we learned to play courageously. 

“Being able to earn better results even in difficult situations is an important part of football.”