Japan midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi told reporters that credit for the side’s 6-0 win over Afghanistan belongs as much to coach Vahid Halilhodzic as it does to the players.
The Cerezo Osaka talent started in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifying fixture and duly assisted Shinji Okazaki’s 57th-minute goal in the rout at Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
And Yamaguchi revealed afterwards that it had been Halilhodzic’s instructions that allowed the Samurai Blue to play with freedom which was behind the authoritative win.
“They were marking me and Hase [Makoto Hasebe] man-to-man, so we decided that instead of dropping back and defending, we could push forward,” Yamaguchi reflected.
“Our coach [Halilhodzic] told us at half-time to move into the space that Shinji [Kagawa] was making, so I kept that in mind during the second half
“We were generally free to roam [in the earlier qualifying win] against Cambodia, but that wasn’t the case today so we worked on creating space and timing our runs from midfield.”
Consecutive victories following an opening draw against Singapore has now moved Japan second in Group E on seven points, two behind Syria.