Coach Yoshiro Moriyama praised his Japan players after Sunday’s 1-0 win over former finalists United Arab Emirates secured a place in the semi-finals of the AFC U-16 Championship India 2016.
After a goalless half-hour at GMC Stadium, Ayumu Seko broke the deadlock from a corner in a quarter-final which Japan dominated for long stretches.
The second period also produced a succession of chances for the two-time winners but Taisei Miyashiro saw a penalty clatter against the upright and Seko hit the crossbar before Japan eventually saw out the tie.
And after converting a ninth AFC U-16 Championship quarter-final appearance into a return to the semi-finals for the first time since 2012, Japan also booked their place in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup as one of the four highest-place teams.
“We could have scored second and third goals but we played well so of course I am happy we won and proud of my players tonight,” said Moriyama.
“We have spent a year and a half preparing the team for this tournament and it has been a great experience for my players. Winning a tough match like this makes it all worth it.
“We may need to brush up our finishing but we still created a lot of chances and were still able to get the win.”
Japan’s fourth consecutive win now means they will return to India next year for the FIFA youth event for the first time since they reached the 2013 Round of 16.
“One of our targets was to make the World Cup and I’m so happy that we have achieved this, it’s a great feeling,” added Moriyama
“Now that we have achieved that we can now aim to win the semi-final and then the final of this competition. We still play the same style as we have these last four games and do our best to win the title.”
UAE, who were chasing a third appearance in the semi-finals, struggled to break Japan’s stranglehold on the match and were unable to muster much going forward, often reliant on goalkeeper Salem Al Hareth’s brilliance and stout defending, as much as Japanese prolificacy, to keep the deficit to a single goal.
“I would like to congratulate Japan. We tried as hard as we could in this game but we couldn’t make the breakthrough,” said UAE coach Abdelmajeed Al Nemer.
“Japan is a really good team. They have very talented players with good defenders and their transition from defence into attack is really fast.
“In football there is a winner and a loser, but for me if you learn from each game then you don’t really lose. This tournament was a great experience for me and my players and we really learnt a lot.”
This was an official Press Release provided by the Asian Football Confederation