Japan – Chile: Harsh Result on Young Japan as Chile’s Clinical Edge Makes the Difference (0-4)
Chile’s efficient finishing proved to be the difference as Chile hit four past a young Japanese team. A score line that did not reflect the game’s events. Japan’s 4-4-2 shape broke-up Chile’s play, before movement between the lines and a change in passing style gave Chile much better options.
Tactical analysis and match report by Joel Parker.
Going into the 2019 Copa América tournament has been a much different experience in comparison to the last two for Chile. Lacklustre form, star-forward Alexis Sánchez being non-existent in the league, as well as an ageing squad have decreased expectation amongst the neutrals. However, Chile have defied the odds before and are gunning for a historic third consecutive Copa América. They are not to be underestimated.
Meanwhile, only once before had Japan appeared in a Copa América competition, exactly twenty years ago in 1999, where they failed to make it past the group stage. Japan have a lot to prove, consistently qualifying for major tournaments without much success. Following their AFC Asian Cup Final loss to Qatar back in February, their hunger for glory continues.
Having gone through the youth ranks before being appointed as manager of the first team, Hajime Moriyasu named a young, high potential Japanese squad. The average age of his lineup was 21.4 years old, starting in Moriyasu’s preferred 3-4-2-1 shape. Undoubtedly, Japan’s biggest asset is also their youngest… 18-year-old Takefusa Kubo, who has recently signed for Real Madrid. He started just behind Ayase Ueda upfront and to the right of their front three.
Chilean boss Reinaldo Rueda has experimented quite a lot with his team. Having played 4-2-3-1 and even 3-4-2-1 systems recently, he opted for the 4-3-3 formation against Japan. The current holders named a much more experienced team, most notably, Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sánchez, who have a combined 230 caps between them.
Japan’s defensive transitions
Stopping Chile’s ball-playing center-backs was a clear priority for Japan. To limit the likes of Vidal and Sánchez is a tough task, but Moriyasu’s team did this brilliantly in early stages. Rotating from their 3-4-2-1 system, they set-up in a 4-4-2 defensive structure with Yuta Nakayama stepping out of the defensive line and into the midfield, whilst Daizen Maeda moved to right wing.
Japan were very impressive off the ball, only pressing when the ball was passed backwards or out wide towards the Chilean fullbacks. From there, both the striker and winger radically pressed the opposition player, as well as the space. Both Gary Medel and Guillermo Maripán were forced to make passes out wide to Mauricio Isla or Jean Beausejour to progress the ball, instead of directly feeding the Chile midfield.
Chile’s ball progression stopped by Japan’s compact 4-4-2 system.
There two banks-of-four stopped Chile’s ball-orientation, the midfield line occupying potential passing lanes, whilst the defensive line performed a strict man-mark on the opposition frontline.
Japan made a vast number of ball recoveries in the middle third If you divide the pitch in three horizontal zones, the middle third is the most central area. and high positions, which caught the opposition out of shape early on. This was thanks to this setup.
Chile’s own defensive structure also holds firm
The rapid Takefusa Kubo was a brilliant link from defense to attack. Carrying the ball from deep, there were a number of times the 18-year-old swiftly beat his opponents in one-versus-one situations, to break into the final third. The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. However, Japan often found their forwards isolated and swamped by Rivera’s men.
This was due to Chile’s 4-1-4-1 system off the ball, which remained compact in defensive situations. Both Sanchez and José Pedro Fuenzalida dropped deeper into the midfield line, whilst Erick Pulgar dropped behind Vidal and Charles Aránguiz. Not only do you have two solid lines, but you also have a man roaming who can support either flank if the ball is in that area. Pulgar was brilliant in these situations.
Japan struggled in attacking transitions, not committing enough players forward in early stages to really threaten Chile. Ayase Yeda and Daizen Maeda were often relying on long passes from deep, which were quickly recovered from the opposition.
With both these teams operating strong systems off the ball, chances were limited in the first half. It would take a set-piece to break the deadlock, Pulgar meeting Aránguiz’s in swinging corner, just a few minutes before the half-time whistle.
Chile access the final third, but Japan still have chances
Chile’s movement on the ball only improved, fully utilizing the flanks and flooding players in between the lines. They did this in several ways. Both wingers occupying the halfspaces If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. meant that they could be a close link to Eduardo Vargas, as well as the two centre-midfielders whilst Beausejour and Isla still providing the width.
Rivera’s team baited Japanese players to press. Not only did they stretch them out wide but also further forward, which created plenty of space behind the pressers. Vidal and Aránguiz would step in-between the lines, building an overload of Chilean players on the Japan backline.
As Japan commit bodies forward in their 3-4-2-1 shape, Chile have space in behind and in golden areas of the pitch.
Not only had they altered their shape in attacking situations, but their passing style also made a neat change. Chile were noticeably more vertical, rather than horizontal, which broke through lines much better and gave them access into much better positions of the pitch.
Although Chile had taken much better control of the game, Japan still created opportunities of their own. They made significant progress on the left channel, targeting the space between Isla and Medel to break through past the defensive line. Kubo was moved more central, which would give him a much better amount of possession. Left-back Daiki Sugioka continued to make progressive passes forward, substitute Hiroki Abe played a big part in their ball orientation forward.
Though Japan were wasteful in the final third, Chile were clinical. Alexis Sánchez’s header and Eduardo Vargas’s chip over Keisuke Osako created a very flattering score line for Chile, and a brutally harsh one on Japan. A great result for the current champions.
Japan’s young guns certainly deserved better; they were not blown away as the score suggests. They were impressive for long periods, breaking up Chile’s passing sequences and had great moves of their own, a finishing touch could have made this a much closer contest. With Uruguay next, they will need to have the end product if they want to see the final stages of this competition.
Chile seem to have picked up where they left off in the Copa América. A strong start against a good defensive unit. However, leaking opportunities on the right side and against a more effective team in shooting positions, this result could have been much different. Victory against Ecuador would all but guarantee a place in the quarter-finals, and avoid making the game against Uruguay a bigger test than it already is.
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