[2018 WC Qualifiers – Match Report] Japan vs. UAE

Japan 1 – 2 UAE

11′: Japan – 4 Keisuke Honda (13 Hiroshi Kiyotake)
20′: UAE – 11 Ahmed Khalil
53′: UAE 11 Ahmed Khalil



Starting Formation: 4-2-3-1

Japan vs. UAE - Starting 11a

GK: 12 Shusaku Nishikawa
RB: 19 Hiroki Sakai
CB: 22 Maya Yoshida
CB: 6 Masato Morishige
LB: 21 Gotoku Sakai
CM: 7 Ryota Ohshima
CM: 17 Makoto Hasebe (Captain)
RW: 4 Keisuke Honda
CAM: 10 Shinji Kagawa
LW: 13 Hiroshi Kiyotake
FW: 9 Shinji Okazaki

*Yamaguchi was planned to be in the starting 11, but he suffered an injury; so Ryota Ohshima gets the call to start alongside Hasebe in the midfield.

Player I focused on: CM Ryota Ohshima
The reason I focused on Ohshima is because this will be is first CAP and first start for the full-national team. Ohshima starting the match is the first time in Japanese soccer history that a player makes his debut in the starting lineup. If he plays to his ability, he will be able to create from midfield by connected the defensive line with the attackers, and he is also capable of going for goal himself. Ohshima plays for Kawasaki Frontale, and Frontale are one of the most potent attacking teams in the J.League and are currently on the top of the table for the season’s 2nd stage. This season, Ohshima has just 2 goals and 3 assists; however, he ranks in the top 10 in the league in passing which lead to scoring opportunities.


It was mentioned that the UAE has be preparing for this stage of the World Cup Qualifiers for the past two months. This is possible because all of the players on UAE’s national team play for clubs in the UAE. On the other hand, Japan had the past 4 days to prepare for this match. In this aspect, the UAE are fully prepared for Japan and their next opponent Australia. I expect to see UAE’s defense to be extremely organized and difficult to breakdown, and 2 months of preparation will have strengthened their tactical knowledge and execution.

Starting Formation: 4-4-2
GK: 12 Ahmed Mahmoud
RB: 14 Abdelaziz Sanqour
CB: 23 Mohamed Ahmed
CB: 19 Ismail Ahmed
LB: 6 Mohanad Salem
RM: 10 Omar Abdulrahman
CM: 13 Kahmis Ismail
CM: 5 Amer Abdulrahman
LM: 15 Ismail Al Hammadi
FW: 7 Ali Mabkhout
FW: 11 Ahmed Khalil (Captain)

Player I focused on: MF 10 Omar Abdulrahman
UAE’s most talented and dangerous player on the field. Because the UAE are predicted to play defensively this evening, Omar Abdulrahman will the the spark on the attacking side of the ball for his team. He will look to find spaces between the lines of Japan’s formation and then quickly switch gears to attack when the moment is right. The UAE might have just 3-5 shots in the whole match, but all the need is to put one of those chances away and chances will go through Omar Abdulrahman. Also, look for the “hot-line” between Omar Abdulrahman and FW 7 Ali Mabkhout. These two players find each other on the pitch very well, especially on counterattacks.

1st Half:

1′: UAE – Kickoff

4′: Japan – Nice combination play near the penalty area from Japan’s attackers. Kagawa tried to thread a pass through for Okazaki to run on to, but Okazaki wasn’t expecting a pass.

5′: UAE – Omar Abdulrahman found himself surrounded by 4 defenders outside of Japan’s penalty area, but he some how found the ball in some space and dropped the ball back to 11 Ahmed Khalil who took a shot, but it was saved by Nishikawa.

9′: UAE – Yellow Card – 6 Mohanad Salem – Slid in hard on Japan’s RB Sakai. He looked to get the ball, but the sheer force of the tackle was deemed dangerous by the center official.

11′: GOAL – Japan 1 – 0 UAE – Kiyotake hits a free kick to the far post and Honda is there to head the ball into the goal.

13′: UAE – 11 Ahmed Khalil tries an audacious direct free kick from about 30 meters from goal and his chance goes flying over the goal.

16′: Japan – Yellow Card – Hiroki Sakai – While shielding the ball out of bounds, Sakai is pushed by a UAE player and the UAE player made an extra gesture and push. Sakai reacts by pushing the player back and gets a yellow card.

17′: Japan – Hasebe sends Okazaki in behind UAE’s defense with a nicely weighted ball in the air. Okazaki takes the ball in to the penalty area, but his shot goes over the bar.

18′: UAE – UAE picks up the ball in midfield and launches a counter with only a few players. UAE’s 7 Ali Mabkhout takes on CB Maya Yoshida and Yoshida brings him down.

18′: Japan – Yellow Card – CB Maya Yoshida

20′: GOAL – Japan 1 – 1 UAE – After CB Maya Yoshida gives up a free kick,  11 Ahmed Khalil hits a hard, dipping shot to the top right corner of the goal. GK Nishikawa gets his fingertips to it, but the ball has too much power and finds the back of the net.

26′: Japan – LB Gotoku Sakai hits an early cross into the box and Honda runs on to it. Honda gets a head to the cross, but it is saved by UAE’s GK. The ball bounces free in the penalty area and Kagawa gets a foot on it, but the ball rolls agonizingly wide of the post.

34′: UAE – 10 Omar Abdulrahman hits a low shot from outside of the penalty area looking to hit the far side of the net, but it goes about 60 cm wide of the goal.

36′: Japan – Kiyotake uses his body well inside of the penalty area and lays off a pass to Kagawa. Kagawa hits a shot, but it is saved and goes out for a corner kick.

42′: UAE – 7 Ali Mabkhout receives a long ball from his defensive line and finds himself in on goal, but his shot is saved by GK Nishikawa.

1st Half Observations:

  1. Japan
    • LB Gotoku Sakai is following UAE’s 10 Omar Abdulrahman into central areas of the pitch, but he his making overlaps when Japan has the ball on UAE’s half.
    • When the ball is on its way to 10 Omar Abdulrahman, more than one player will converge to prevent any chances.
    • Kiyotake is taking all of Japan’s free kicks, not Honda.
    • Debutant Ohshima looks lost at times and is indecisive in his movements in midfield. He is playing a lot of simple passes, but no passes which create chances.
    • Kagawa is playing in the CAM position, but he looks to be a shadow striker from the tactical side of things.
    • Okazaki is invisible.
    • Kiyotake has been Japan’s best player.
  2. UAE
    • Playing with a slightly low defensive line when Japan has the ball on their (UAE’s) half in order to create a tight defensive block in front of their penalty area.
    • 10 Omar Abdulrahman is roaming the pitch freely at times to find space.
    • UAE is looking for set plays and free kicks in dangerous zones
    • Mabkhout has been UAE’s best player.

Keys for Success in the 2nd Half:

For Japan:

  1. Not give up free kicks in dangerous areas. It is obvious that UAE has been practicing set plays, because when playing a defensive tactic, set plays are a strong weapon to utilize with few attacking opportunities.
  2. Kagawa needs to find the ball in dangerous areas around the penalty area.
  3. UAE’s defense looks to be weak against crosses. So, bringing in RB Hiroki Sakai, LB Gotoku Sakai into the game to send in early crosses will create more chances. Also, when UAE’s defense adjusts to this tactic, they will probably drop their defensive line deeper giving Japan more space to work with in dangerous areas.

For UAE:

  1. Continue playing with their organized block in defense.
  2. Press Japan’s central midfielders when they are about to play negative passes to CBs. The reason for this is because Japan’s CBs Yoshida and Morishige make mistakes when pressure is put on them after receiving dropped passes from the midfield.
  3. Switch 10 Omar Abdulrahman from RM to LM because Japan’s RB Hiroki Sakai is already on a yellow card. With 10 Omar Abdulrahman on the left side of the pitch, this will increase the risk of Hiroki Sakai getting a second yellow card because 10 Omar Abdulrahman is good a drawing fouls.

2nd Half:

***Use of substitution cards will be key in the 2nd half for both teams. In my opinion, there is a high chance that FW Muto will come on for Japan in the second half because Japan’s attack is lacking that last killer touch.

46′: UAE – Substitution – IN DF 3 Walid Abbas, OUT 14 Abdelaziz Sanqour

46′: Japan – LB Gotoku Sakai playing like an inverted wing back by running into the center of the pitch, but then makes a run back to the left flank.

49′: Japan – Ohshima picks up a loose ball outside of the penalty area and unleashes a vicious shot on frame, but UAE’s GK makes a fingertip save.

52′: Japan – Captain Hasebe is caught trying to dribble the ball out from Japan’s defensive third and loses the ball which leads to UAE putting a lot of pressure and having a lot of possession in Japan’s penalty area.

52′: PK Opportunity for UAE – 15 Ismail Al Hammadi is surrounded by 3 Japanese players in Japan’s penalty area and 7 Ohshima sticks out his leg and trips 15 Ismail Al Hammadi.

54′: GOAL – Japan 1 – 2 UAE – 11 Ahmed Khalil scores a cheeky PK right up the middle to give UAE the lead.

56′: Japan – LB Gotoku Sakai sends in a delicious grounded cross and Kiyotake makes a move to the cross. He tries to get a touch, but completely misses and wastes a great opportunity.

59′: Japan – Honda sends a cross into the box and Okazaki gets his head to it, but his headed shot rocks the crossbar.

62′: Japan – Substitution – IN 11 Takashi Usami, OUT 13 Hiroshi Kiyotake

64′: Japan – Okazaki gets knocked down in the penalty area and Japan appeals for a PK, but their appeals fall on deaf ears as play goes on.

66′: Japan – Substitution – IN 18 Takuma Asano, OUT 9 Shinji Okazaki

68′: Japan – Usami plays a nice combination and gets into UAE’s penalty area. He does a step over and is obstructed by a UAE defender. Usami appeals for a PK, but the center official says play on.

69′: Japan – Hasebe is brought down by UAE’s 10 Omar Abdulrahman, but the foul is called against Hasebe. Manager Halilhodžić gets a stern talking to from the center official.

72′: UAE – Substitution – IN DF 18 Mohamed Fawzi, OUT FW 11 Ahmed Khalil

74′: Japan – Substitution – IN FW 8 Genki Haraguchi, OUT MF 7 Ryota Ohshima
Haraguchi looks to have slotted in directly to Ohshima’s position in midfield, but he is pushing further up the pitch that Ohshima did.

77′: Japan – Hiroki Sakai hits a cross into the box and Honda sends a header across the face of the goal. Asano gets on the end of Honda’s header and hits a volley heading towards goal. The ball looks to be heading into the net and UAE’s GK gets a hand on it to bat it out. The ball clearly fully crossed the line, but the referees miss the call and Japan is not credited with a goal.

79′: UAE – Yellow Card – 3 Walid Abbas receives a yellow card for a slide tackle on Honda.

81′: Japan – Gotoku Sakai wins a free kick in a dangerous position on the left flank, but ends up as a free kick and these chances cannot be converted.

84′: UAE – UAE has a good chance to extend their lead with a shot from 10 Omar Abdulrahman inside of Japan’s penalty area, but it rolls wide.

89′: Japan – Haraguchi shows his strength in dribbling but cutting past UAE’s defender, but his shot from the edge of the penalty area flies way over the goal.

92′: Japan – Asano is sent in behind UAE’s defense from a long pass, but he is at a difficult angle and cannot get any power behind his shot, so it is easily saved.

2nd Half Observations:

  1. Japan
    • RB Hiroki Sakai looks to be favoring an injury on his right leg. Possibly his right thigh.
    • LB Gotoku Sakai looks dangerous on attack.
    • Japan is getting chances from crosses and second attacks after crosses, which is something I have not seen from the Japan national team in the past.
    • Even though Japan is playing crosses into the penalty area, they are not getting enough players in the box.
    • Kiyotake was one of the players who actually created opportunities for Japan. However, Usami is a more proven goal-getter and Japan needs goals, so I understand the logic behind this substitution.
    • Bringing Asano on for Okazaki gives Japan speed up top.
  2. UAE
    • UAE changing their LB shows that maybe they are looking to also use their left flank to attack Japan, which might work in their favor if RB Hiroki Sakai is actually injured.
    • Marking on set plays and crosses is not tight and this is giving Japan half-chances.
    • As I said in 1st half observations, the UAE are looking for free kicks in dangerous zones.
    • UAE is wasting time to kill the game off from the 70th minute of the match.
    • UAE substituting FW and captain Ahmed Khalil off for a defender shows that they are looking to lockdown their defense.

Overall Observations:

Player of the Match: UAE – GK 12 Ahmed Mahmoud
He made some big saves in the second half to make sure his team kept the lead.

Next fixtures (September 6):


vs. Thailand at Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok.


vs. Australia at Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi


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