Japan captain Maya Yoshida said Friday his side's 3-1 loss to Qatar in the AFC Asian Cup and failure to gain an unprecedented fifth title was partly down to a lack of focus.
"We let our guard down, thinking we could win if we kept riding the momentum we had. But we weren't disciplined and didn't pull ourselves together," the Southampton defender said after the match at Abu Dhabi's Zayed Sports City Stadium.
Japan had won all four of their previous appearances in the final of the continental tournament, but they were unable to come from behind against Qatar, who went into the match as underdogs.
A member of the team that captured a record fourth Asian Cup in 2011, Yoshida said Japan lacked preparation at this tournament despite having more time to get in shape for the final.
Qatar, the hosts of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, had only two days after their semifinal against hosts United Arab Emirates, while Japan had three days to prepare for the match following their 3-0 win over Iran.
"They were ready despite having only two days and played more aggressively than we did," Yoshida said. "We should've prepared ourselves more mentally rather than physically."
Qatar forward Almoez Ali opened the scoring in the 12th minute and Abdelaziz Hatim doubled the lead before half time.
"Conceding two goals in the first half ended up being the difference between winning and losing. We still have a lot to learn," Yoshida said.
Takumi Minamino pulled a goal back for Japan in the 69th minute, but the Samurai Blue were unable to get past Qatar's defense and conceded a third from the spot after Yoshida was penalized for a handball. It was Japan's first loss under head coach Hajime Moriyasu since he took the job in July.
"This competition doesn't mean anything to Japan if we don't win," Minamino said. "It's frustrating how my goal didn't spark a comeback. The fact that we couldn't come from behind proves we're lacking in ability."
The 24-year-old Salzburg attacker appeared in six matches at the tournament and has been a key member of Moriyasu's national team since being left out of Akira Nishino's side at last year's World Cup in Russia.
"I want to keep playing in this shirt. I want to grow from this experience," he said.