Ranked, 18th in the world, The Japan Mens Hockey team opened their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2019 campaign with a 0-2 loss against India, followed by a 3-4 loss to Malaysia on day two of the tournament.
Although they lost both the matches, looking at how Japan played, one would not believe they are ranked 18th in the world. They defended brilliantly, were good in the midfield, created enough chances and secured maximum ball possessions. But ofcourse, the opponents in the end proved ‘too lucky’.
Jf you take a look at their previous performances, Japan in their last encounter with India , lost 2-3 to them at the Champions Trophy 2018. Prior to that they lost (0-9) at the same match, and at the 2018 Asian Games, they suffered a (0-8) defeat in the play offs.
In their last encounter with Malaysia, they lost (2-3) in a shootout at the 2018 Champions Trophy, and suffered another (0-4) defeat at the 2018 Darwin International Open series.
Japanese Skipper, Manabu Yamashita spoke to The Dragflick, and said that he was disappointed with the results but he is glad his team put up a brilliant performance.
“We would lose by a considerable margin to higher ranked teams previously. But, now the gap between the teams has got narrower. You can see it in our performances against India and Malaysia,” said the experienced captain who just played his 170th cap last evening against Malaysia.
Japan has played at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup only thrice previously, first in 1987, where they finished 6th, second in 2016, where they finished 7th and third in 2017, where they finished sixth, respectively.
Assessing his team’s performance so far whilst also looking forward towards the next match, Captain Manabu said:
“We just need to be confident — while playing against a higher ranked team.”