Saudi Arabia knocks out Defending Champions Japan from the AFC U-19 Championships
Masanaga Kageyama had changed nine of his personnel who played against hosts Indonesia in the Quarter-finals. Daiki Hashioka and Hiroki Ito were the only players retained in the starting eleven. Kanya Fujimoto and Hiroko Abe have already returned to Japan after sustaining injuries.
Khaled Abdullah Mohammed made just one change bringing in Abdulmohsen Al-Qahtani for Feras Albirakan retaining the core of the team which played against Australia.
It was puzzling to find Kageyama leaving out the likes of Takefusa Kubo, nicknamed the Japanese Messi; Taisei Miyashiro who is the top goalscorer for Japan and Koki Saito who is behind Miyashiro on the scoring charts. They eventually did come in as substitutes in the second half, but it seemed too late for them to create an impact.
The biggest surprise of all was Tomoya Wakahara starting the game as the stopper for his first match of the tournament in a crucial encounter. Unsure, if Kageyama took the semi-final as a practice match as he entered the records becoming the first coach to utilize all his 23 players in the tournament.
Semi-Final: Saudi Arabia defeat Japan 2-0
(KSA: Turki Al-Ammar 29’; Khalid Al-Ghannam 46’)
Saudi Arabian coach Khaled Abdullah sported a 4-4-2 formation. Muhannad Al-Shanqiti moved into a right midfield position, and Mansor Al-Beshe dropped back in defense. Khalid Al-Ghannam trotted down the left wing to supply the strikers.
Saudi Arabia sported a 4-3-3 style following the revamp giving them 66% of the ball possession. The Green Falcons managed 607 completed passes and five shots on target with their 15 attempts with six missing the mark. They dominated the high balls winning 78% of the aerial duels, and their robust defense claimed 20 tackles.
Japan employed a 3-4-2-1 style. Yuta Taki played adopted a left midfield role which changed the formation to 3-5-2. Japan was on the back foot with their defense tested at will resulting in 15 interceptions and 28 clearances. It was startling to find that none of their eight attempts managed to find the target.
In a battle between two unbeaten sides in the tournament, Japan’s performance looked lack-luster as Saudi Arabia went all guns blazing attacking from the word go.
Urawa Red Diamond's Daiki Hashioka sent a long ball up to Yuta Taki who was unable to capitalize as it settled into the arms of Abdulrahman Alshammari. It signaled the intentions of how the events would unfold today for the Blue Samurais.
Abdulmohsen Al-Qahtani came up with a looping header off a free-kick which was saved comfortably by Tomoya Wakahara.
Tomoya Wakahara succumbed to the pressure of a semi-final match, after fumbling the ball over the goal line from Turki Al Ammar’s strike at the near post to put the Green Falcons ahead.
In the 32nd minute, Faraj Al-Ghashayan’s cross was hit over the crossbar by Abdulmohsen Al-Qahtani from close-range. The Al-Qadsiah midfielder sent another half-volley soaring over in the 36th minute from Khalid Al-Ghannam's cross.
Taichi Hara expertly sent the ball behind for a corner after Muhannad Al-Shanqiti’s superb cross would have found the net by a rapidly approaching Saudi forwards.
Tomoya Wakahara made amends for his earlier blip with an outstanding save to deny Al Hilal’s Mansor Al-Beshe. Khalid Al-Ghannam blasted the loose ball into the bottom left corner to make it 2-0.
Tomoya Wakahara came up with yet another super save in the second half after Mansor Al-Beshe’s long-range strike took a deflection off Ayumu Seko.
Hamed Alghamdi’s and Khalid Al-Ghannam’s found their shots at goal, blocked out by Hiroki Ito and Kyosuke Tagawa.
Takefusa Kubo’s free-kick was headed out by Naif Almas. It fell to Daiki Hashioka who hits it high over the crossbar. Takefusa Kubo’s left-footed curler breezed past the crossbar before going inches wide of the far post.
Faraj Al-Ghashayan came up with a fine header in injury time which got saved by Tomoya Wakahara.
Faraj Al-Ghashayan was cautioned with a yellow card in the 94th minute after a foul on Takefusa Kubo. Taisei Miyashiro’s free-kick was easily dispensed off by the Saudi defense who savored their victory over the defending Champions.
The Green Falcons will meet the Taeguk Warriors in the Finals on 4th November 2018.