Japan vs Ukraine, Tuesday, March 27, 13:20 BST/14:20 CEST Stade Maurice Dufrasne, Liège, Belgium
The conclusion of the March international break will present Japan and Ukraine with a slightly more competitive match. Founded in 1978, the Kirin Cup features a round robin competition against national teams from South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Since its incorporation, Japan has won the title on eleven occasions, most recently in 2011. Bosnia and Herzegovina are the competition’s current holders.
The Japanese will seek to take advantage of this match. After a successful match against Mali, Japan will continue its strategic international schedule against Ukraine. The Samurai Blue have been drawn in Group H, where they will face Colombia, Senegal and Poland. Since Poland was drawn against Ukraine during the FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifiers, as well as Group C during the UEFA Euro 2016 competition, the Japanese understand that Ukraine has much experience against their upcoming opponents in the World Cup. Hence, it is likely the Samurai Blue will use this as an opportunity to learn from their Ukrainian opponents in preparation for the World Cup.
The competition will also provide a unique opportunity for Ukraine’s youth. Having experimented slightly with the line up against Saudi Arabia, Ukrainian Manager Andriy Shevchenko may opt to make a few more changes in the match against Japan. Though still an international friendly, the Kirin Cup may provide a bit of a more entertaining atmosphere for the players. Should Shevchenko select a more youthful squad, this will allow them an opportunity to try and impress their manager with their performances.
Japan vs Ukraine – Players to Watch:
Keisuke Honda #4 – Japan (C.F. Pachuca)
Perhaps one of Japan’s most well-known footballers, the former CSKA Moscow and AC Milan player will need to play a vital role in this tie. While forward is his preferred position, the Japanese international can also play as an attacking midfielder, winger or holding midfielder. With his versatile capabilities, Hondo will surely torment the Ukrainian defence.
Yevhen Konoplyanka #10 – Ukraine (Schalke 04)
Following the midfielder’s move to Western Europe from Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Konoplyanka has struggled to find regular game time at both Sevilla and Schalke 04. The Ukrainian has not started a competitive Bundesliga match since February 3, and his form may be a concern for the Ukrainian national team. Andriy Yarmolenko’s absence may also play a role in this tie, as the two wingers are viewed as Ukraine’s “terrible twins.” Therefore, Konoplyanka will have to pull the strings on his own in this tie, and his effectiveness will be the deciding factor of this match.
Japan vs Ukraine Match Stats
- The series is currently split between the Yellow-Blues and Samurai Blues. They have previously faced one another in international friendlies in 2002 and 2005, where the score ended 1-0 on both occasions.
- Borussia Dortmund teammates Yarmolenko and Shinji Kagawa are injured and will not compete in this match.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Japan vs Ukraine – 1-1
Japan vs Ukraine – Possible Lineups
Nakamura – Kurumaya, Nagatomo, Shōji, Ueda – Hasebe – Honda, Yamaguchi, Shibasaki, Haraguchi – Kobayashi
Manager: Vahid Halilodžić
Pyatov – Matviyenko, Rakitskiy, Ordets, Butko – Stepanenko, Rotan – Malinovskiy, Marlos, Konoplyanka – Kravets
Manager: Andriy Shevchenko
Mark Temnycky is a Ukrainian-American who earned a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in June 2017. He is pursuing a career in international relations and foreign policy. Follow Mark on Twitter @MTem33