‘We’ve been together for 46 days,’ Japan U22 coach smiles despite 1-4 loss to USA: “I’m very proud of the players and support staff”

Ko Oiwa, 51, head coach of Japan’s U-22 national soccer team,안전놀이터 which is working tirelessly to achieve its goal of qualifying for the Paris Olympics, stepped onto Japanese soil with a satisfied look on his face after a two-game exhibition tour of the United States.

Ko Oiwa returned to Japan on Sept. 19 (local time) after two exhibition games against Mexico and the U.S. U-22 team in the United States. On the 15th, Japan defeated Mexico 4-1, but fell to the United States 1-4 on the 18th.

Both Japan and the United States have their sights set on qualifying for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. With the age limit of 23 and under in mind, both teams fielded U-22 squads for the tournament.

For the United States, the door is open to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in 16 years. Japan couldn’t have asked for a better opponent. Mexico, who beat Japan for the bronze medal at Tokyo 2020, lost their spot in Paris early.

Japan’s head coach Oiwago sings the Japanese national anthem before the match.

The match against the United States marked the end of a 46-day journey for Oiwago with the U-22 team.

Previously, Oiwa took charge of a three-match Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Asian Cup qualifying campaign in Bahrain from Sept. 6-12, followed by six matches at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games from Sept. 20-Oct. 7, before returning to the United States for two exhibition matches against Mexico and the United States on Oct. 15 and 18, respectively.

Oiwa took 23 players who did not play at the Hangzhou Asian Games with him on the trip to the United States. However, when Shota Fujio withdrew from the tournament due to injury, he was replaced by Kotaro Uchino, who had participated in the tournament.

After a month-and-a-half-long campaign, Oiwa has been praised for exceeding expectations. Prior to the 1-2 loss to South Korea in the final of the Hangzhou Asian Games, Japan had not lost since September with seven wins and one draw.

Japan’s Kokubo Leo Bryan celebrates the victory with coach Oiwa Ko after the match.

Despite missing out on a chance to top Asia and losing to the United States, Japan’s head coach Ko Oiwa returned home on a high note.

According to Japan’s Nikkan Sports on June 19, Oiwa said in a return interview, “It was a very good two-game series against the United States. It was very good for us in many ways,” he said. “He came back with a satisfied expression,” the outlet added.

“Even though we lost to the U.S., we did a lot of the things we wanted to do very well,” Oiwago said. “It was a very close game (1-4), and I think (the players) realized that you can’t win with just good soccer. It was a really good game for our team.”

Now taking a breather, Oiwago reflects on what has happened and gives credit to his staff.

“The support staff put in a lot of hard work over the past month and a half. Thanks to them, we are once again stronger and more united as a team,” he said, emphasizing that the role of the people behind the scenes – not only the players, but also the coaching staff and medical staff – was significant.

The Japan Under-21 football team won 3-0 against Tajikistan at the Bunyodkor Stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on June 9 at 10:00 p.m. (KST) in the third match of Group D of the 2022 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Asian Cup. Japan’s coach Koi Koi watches the match.

Having set their sights on a ‘minimum bronze medal at the Paris Olympics’, Japan are preparing with frightening meticulousness.

A top-three finish at the AFC U-23 Asian Cup in Qatar next April will give Japan a direct ticket to the Olympics. It’s the first gateway to Paris. Fourth place will require a win in an intercontinental playoff against African qualifier No. 4 Guinea to get to Paris.

The JFA has also finalized another set of exhibition games for Oiwa and Ko. Japan will play a friendly at home against Argentina in November. “The path to the Paris Olympics continues steadily,” Nikkan Sports said.

South Korea’s Olympic team, led by coach Hwang Sun-hong, has the same goal as Japan. However, there are differences in the preparation process.

There is still no clear timeline from the Korean Football Association to reach Paris.

The mood in Korea and Japan is also very different. Unlike Japan, where the head coach has been expressing his satisfaction with the staff support through the media, Hwang Sun-hong is desperate for help.

Against all odds, Hwang Sun-hong won the gold medal.The South Korean Asian Games football team, led by Hwang Sun-hong (55), won 2-1 against Japan in the final of the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games at the Huanglong Sports Center Stadium in Hangzhou, China, starting at 9 p.m. (local time) on Sunday.South Korean players pose with the gold medal around their necks.

The men’s football final match between South Korea and Japan at the 19th Hangzhou Asian Games takes place at Huanglong Sports Center Stadium in Hangzhou, China, on Sunday.South Korea’s coach Hwang Sun-hong gives instructions to his players in the first half.

After winning the gold medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games, Hwang Sun-hong said, “I don’t think this result would have happened without the efforts of not only the players, but also the support staff and coaching staff,” adding, “Football is becoming more and more detailed. There should be (more) support. In this tournament, both physical and analytical staff worked together. If this part is not supported, it will not be easy to play soccer in the future,” he said, emphasizing the need to continue to support professional staff.

“It’s hard to develop Korean soccer if we don’t work together. If this part (match support) is well prepared, we are confident in the Paris Olympics,” he added.

Japan was given the green light for a December call-up training schedule following the Argentina trial. Hwang Sun-hong said, “The Olympic team should be able to train for two to three weeks during the (professional) winter training period in January. Only then can they be competitive. If they don’t have that opportunity, it could be very difficult in the future.”

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