Takefusa Kubo lifts Japan as Tokyo Olympics open

Japanese coach Hajime Moriyasu’s message at half-time for his players in their Olympic opener was straightforward.

Continue to create opportunities.

Japan gave themselves a number of chances against South Africa and it finally paid off with a Takefusa Kubo goal in the 71st minute of a 1-0 victory on Thursday night at Tokyo Stadium.

“We are able to create a lot of chances in the second half and I told the players to keep creating chances to give us the best opportunity to score goals,” said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu.

As Japan looked to take the advantage late, Kubo picked up a pass down the right side, turned and fired a shot past the outstretched leg of a South African player and the goalkeeper. diving Ronwen Williams. The ball hit the side post and ricocheted through the net.

The Samurai Blue were forced to survive a few scares towards the end of the match, but held on for the win.

“First of all, it was a tough first game and I told the players that all of their hard work was what led to this result,” said Moriyasu.

There was no guarantee the match would be played at the start of the day after 18 South African players were seen as close contact with two players and one official who tested positive for COVID-19, organizers said on Monday.

South Africa needed to have enough players who tested negative within six hours of the game for the game to continue. The announcement of the match being played as planned was delivered around two hours before kick-off.

“You could clearly see that we were in a very difficult situation,” said South Africa coach David Notoane. “We couldn’t train, we didn’t start our first training session until Monday. We are still isolated. It’s very difficult mentally to be stuck in your room, only going out to gain a foothold and only going out to practice. “

Japan, although not sure if the game would go ahead, maintained their focus.

“Even with the situation with the South African team, the players were not distracted,” said Moriyasu.

The South Africans entered the game with a defensive mindset against Japan, who dominated possession. At the end. this was not enough to prevent Japan from claiming victory.

“The plan worked until Kubo showed up,” Notoane said.

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