The hosts dominated play for the entire match and their narrow win did not reflect the complexion of the game
Japan winger Takefusa Kubo admits his side struggled against South Africa in their Group A 1-0 win at Ajinomoto Stadium.
The Real Madrid starlet was ‘relieved’ they finally managed to break South Africa in a dominant display which almost turned into disappointment owing to a list of missed chances.
Kubo’s 71st-minute goal decided the game.
It was a contest in which Japan could have won by a wider margin had they been clinical in front of goal.
“I’m relieved now. I’m happy and relieved. I thought I should score a goal in order for the team to score a goal,” Kubo said after the match.
“I scored the goal and the team won. I’m very happy. South Africa was a good team. The South African players looked in good condition.”
Throughout the match, Japan threatened to win by a high scoreline but they ended up being restricted to a slim victory.
Apart from wasting a number of chances, Japan also faced spirited defending from South Africa.
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu echoed Kubo’s sentiments that they had a tough 90 minutes as South Africa foiled their ambitions to score “more goals.”
‘We wanted to score more goals if possible. I think the Japanese players understood that there was no easy match,” said Moriyasu.
Japan are captained by veteran defender Maya Yoshida who spent seven years playing Premier League football with Southampton.
The Sampdoria defender led a group of younger players keen to win gold as hosts.
Yoshida feels they can perform better than they did against South Africa as they now prepare to meet Group A leaders Mexico in their next match on Sunday.
“We managed to keep one goal. Originally, we are a team that can perform better. We should have played more confidently from the start. By winning this game, the next [match] I think the team will be better,” Yoshida said.
Japan take on Mexico on Sunday, and South Africa will play against France.