Japan's incredible squad waltzed into AFC final

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Japan showed their incredible strength squad depth as more than half the starting XI were swapped out but they still handed Australia the exit.

Seven changes, that is what Moriyama Toshiro did in the semi-final of the AFC U16 Championship against Australia compared to the starting eleven that was paraded in the win over Oman in the quarterfinal. Despite that, Japan still walked away with a very handsome 3-1 win against their fellow U17 World Cup qualifier.

Only centre back Riku Handa, right back Kohshiro Sumi, defensive midfielder Asahi Yokokawa and attacking midfielder Hiraku Naruoka kept their places but Japan still managed to tore into an inferior Australian side with a little help some half time substitutions.

Trailing to a first half goal from Australia's Noah Botic, the introduction of star player Jun Nishikawa lighted the flame of revival for Japan that culminated in a 20 minutes period in the second half where the match swung completely to the side of the young Samurai Blues.

Shoji Toyama grabbed a brace to continue his good goalscoring run in the tournament before Shunsuke Mito added the icing on the cake and sent Japan through to their first final since the 2012 edition that was held in Iran.

Jun Nishikawa, Japan U16, AFC U16 Championship

"For this match, we switched a lot of players to give a chance to players that didn't get much playing time before. We conceded the first goal but after that we created many chances but couldn't finish," said Toshiro in the post-match press conference.

"One of the keys for this victory was the second half where we managed to steal the ball from the opponent and having Nishikawa on the pitch just raised the whole quality on the pitch as he could calm down the play.

"I haven't decided the starting XI yet (for the final). We have to see the conditions of the players, some of them have small injuries. Obviously some players have played a lot of minutes, so it'll depend on the recovery in the next few days."

Japan have won four of the five matches that they have played in the tournament thus far in their run to the final. Ironically, the only match which they did not win was the group stage match against Tajikistan, who will be their opponent in the final.

 

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