Vahid Halilhodzic took responsibility for Japan’s poor first-half display in Tuesday’s 2-0 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Cambodia, and says Asian football is suffering because of overly defensive tactics.
The Samurai Blue eked out the win that keeps them top of Group E, but they struggled to break through against their opponents even after grabbed the opener.
It took until the 51st minute for Halilhodzic’s men to go one up from an own goal after Shinji Okazaki missed a first-half penalty, and the coach was not overly impressed with their display despite Keisuke Honda’s clincher in the final minute.
“We improved in the second half but I’m not at all satisfied with the first half. I tried a lot of different players,” he told reporters after the match. “I’m responsible for choosing the players who weren’t compatible with each other.
“In the second half, as usual we created a lot of chances but only scored two goals. I have to congratulate our players but Japan must play better.
“Of course I don’t expect that everyone will be able to play at such a high level, but I did want to see more from several players.”
Yosuke Kashiwagi delivered the free-kick that led to Japan’s first and is rapidly earning himself a place in Halilhodzic’s plans, with the Bosnian hailing the Urawa Reds playmaker afterwards.
“As everyone saw, we were able approach their goal after [Kashiwagi] came on, and even earned a penalty kick,” he continued.
“Kashiwagi is important in our build-up from the back; he was able to send diagonal passes and get the ball behind their defenders. He can also play up front, and sent good passes to our attackers.”
Cambodia stifled Japan for large periods, but Halilhodzic said such defensive tactics are holding Asian football back, even if he admitted their hosts deserved more from the match
“[Cambodia] played hard; they defended and created counters,” the 63-year-old concluded.
“That said - and this is a message to managers across Asia - you can’t improve by playing like this every game.
“If you want to develop your team, you need to be brave and attack. That may be why Asian football is considered poor compared to other regions.”