Press conference after the match against Al Hilal SFC  

Comment from Team Manager Tsuyoshi Otsuki after the AFC Champions League 2019 Knockout Stage Final 2nd Leg Match against Al Hilal SFC

Comment from Team Manager Tsuyoshi Otsuki
First of all, I wish to congratulate the members of Al Hilal SFC and those who are concerned with the club as well as Al Hilal fans and supporters who travelled all the way to Japan to show their support for the team.
With regard to the game content itself, as our team was behind in the first leg match, we tried to come from behind. However, since we couldn’t score any point during the first half of the match, we were compelled to move ourselves forward. After Al Hilal scored the first goal, we had no choice but to push ourselves forward. However, that was how we lost the second goal as well.
Looking at the two matches as a whole, we wanted to create a good momentum for ourselves by controlling the first leg match at an early stage. However, we had quite difficult matches.

Questions and Answers

Q: Separate from the J. League, Urawa Reds achieved significant results in the AFC Champions League this year. How do you evaluable the team’s performance throughout the AFC Championship? Please also tell us what will happen to you as the team’s Team Manager?

A: Firstly, with regard to the AFC Championship, I led the team as their Team Manager for the tournament. I feel I was successful in leading the team in terms of getting the best out of them in their preparations as well as pulling out better performances from them in our second-leg matches. Having said that, our players were successful in pulling great performances out of themselves by executing great free kicks and middle range-shots to win the matches when we played neck-and-neck against our formidable opponents such as Al Hilal. I must say we were able to come this far thanks to our players’ resilience and their great performances. As for the final match, as I have already told my team, while I am so grateful for their great performances, I feel regretful that I wasn’t able to lead them to reach their full potential. I believe that the reason why our team was able to progress to the final was thanks to their own strength.

With regard to my next course of action, I am not able to make any comment on this at this stage.

Q: I trust that you went through a lot to prepare for today’s match such as analyzing your opponent etc. How did you use the past two weeks to prepare for the match particularly in terms of your team’s offense strategies?

A: During the away match, our team struggled to move the ball around as Al Hilal players had strong defense from the front line. As such, out team was not able to create one of the pass courses which was leading from the goalkeeper. For this reason, we created another pass course from our goalkeeper Nishikawa in our defense line and we tried to utilize this pass course by executing quick ball passes and taking the space created at the back of side wing backs etc. We also tried to close the gap between the final line and our defensive mid-fielder’s position in order to improve our accuracy. As a result, during the first half of the match, we were successful in executing what we had envisaged to carry out at least for a few times. However, we were not able to make the most of our center back position. It would have been great had we been able to score a goal during the first half of the match. As for the second half of the match, our opponent team players adjusted their moves accordingly. Things would have been different had we been able to defend ourselves well and had scored a goal during the first half. Our team was under pressure since the game had several restarts. I wanted to change this situation. After all, however, we have a challenging match today.

Q: With regard to the match played today, I feel that the performance of the side players was crucial in deciding the course of the match for both good and bad. Based on this, how do you evaluate the performance of the side players for today’s match, namely Hashioka and Sekine?

A: As you have just pointed out, there were some positives in their performance. Our opponent team had managed to breakthrough their defense when we lost the goal at the end of the match. But, before this had happened, we tried to avoid this scenario and tried to adjust ourselves accordingly. However, the position of the Al Hilal’s number 19 player (André Carrillo) also changed. As such, the match unfolded as it did as a result of both teams readjusting themselves.
In other words, had our team been able to score a goal during the first half of the match and had we been able to block Al-Hilal’s attempt to score the goal at the end of the match, the evaluation of our side players would have remained all positive. I don’t think their performance was bad.

Q: After having played against several teams in other Asian countries, what stood out in your mind especially in terms of the development of speed in other country’s teams as well as Japanese teams’ position amongst other Asian countries?

A: During the knockout stage, our team played against well-resourced big clubs. The quality of some of their players especially those players from overseas stood out and it made it difficult for us.
Another thing I should note is that our team could have been better prepared as a club in terms of how we travelled and how we climatized ourselves especially when we played in West Asia such as playing against Al Hilal in their stadium. In the past, when our team was successful in getting ourselves in the final, we were able to secure some time in the host country to have camp training before the match. However, this wasn’t possible this time. I guess this was a lesson learnt for us and the club. I hope this type of experience will not only benefit us but also the Japanese soccer sphere as a shared experience. I think it is important that this type of knowledge will accumulate amongst ourselves on a club basis after a big championship.

Before we close this session, I wish to make one additional comment. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to those in the media who always travelled together for both our matches in Japan and overseas. Thank you so much for your efforts. I have already extended my gratitude for our players but I wish to also extend my gratitude for our fans and supporters who came to bolster us in our stadium. They created such a great atmosphere for us to play every time we played in our stadium but especially today. I feel so regretful that we were not able to bring a great outcome for our fans and supporters today. We hope to receive your continued support and that we will continue to be regarded as your companions.

[Urawa Reds Official Media (URD: OM)]

Press conference after the match against Al Hilal SFC