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Football: Koya Kitagawa has «no regrets» after difficult Asian Cup debut

Despite a costly error in his AFC Asian Cup debut, forward Koya Kitagawa said Thursday he has «no regrets» and is focused on Japan’s upcoming matches at the tournament in the United Arab Emirates.

A 73rd-minute substitute in Japan’s 3-2 win over Group F opponents Turkmenistan in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, the 22-year-old Shimizu S-Pulse forward contributed to the Central Asian side’s final goal after losing possession while trying to evade a challenge.

With Japan up 3-1, Kitagawa’s turnover allowed Turkmenistan to quickly advance the ball before Samurai Blue keeper Shuichi Gonda conceded a penalty by tripping Altymyrat Annadurdyyev in the area. Forward Ahmet Atayev converted the kick with 11 minutes left.

The goal ensured a nervous ending to a match that Hajime Moriyasu’s men had been expected to win comfortably against an opponent 77 places below them in the FIFA rankings.

«I wasn’t able to recover (the ball) after my mistake. It would’ve been better if I could’ve won it back,» Kitagawa said after practice on Thursday.

The Shizuoka Prefecture native, who netted 14 goals for S-Pulse last season, said he rarely feared losing possession while pushing forward in J-League matches, but international opponents could punish mistakes more quickly.

«This is where it feels like things are different,» he said.

Kitagawa, who made his Japan debut under new manager Moriyasu in a 3-0 friendly win over Panama in October, said he «wants to improve» and make the most of his opportunities, but would not fundamentally change his approach in light of his error.

«(My mistake) was the result of having the confidence to make a move but not executing it. But I have no regrets and I can’t stop playing positively,» he said.

Japan are on top of Group F by virtue of having scored more goals than second-place Uzbekistan, who beat Oman 2-1 in their opening clash.

The Samurai Blue face Oman at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium on Sunday before their final group-stage match against Uzbekistan at Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, also in Abu Dhabi, next Thursday.

The top two teams in each of the six groups will advance to the knockout stage, along with the four best third-placed teams.

All — Kyodo News+

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