Japan made progress integrating new tactics and personnel despite going winless in their first international football friendlies since the 2022 World Cup, manager Hajime Moriyasu said Wednesday.

Japan men's football manager Hajime Moriyasu speaks to reporters in Osaka, western Japan, on March 29, 2023. (Kyodo)

The Samurai Blue boss said he was closely examining what went right and wrong for his new-look team in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Colombia at Osaka's Yodoka Sakura Stadium and last Friday's 1-1 draw with Uruguay at Tokyo's National Stadium.

"I want to reflect on why we couldn't get a result in these high-profile matches," Moriyasu said. "We were able to take on the challenge of trying new tactical concepts and player combinations."

After steering the Samurai Blue to the round of 16 last year in Qatar, Moriyasu became the first Japan manager to be reappointed for another World Cup cycle.

Looking to bring fresh thinking into the national setup, he appointed former Japan internationals Hiroshi Nanami and Ryoichi Maeda to his coaching team in January.

Nanami was credited for introducing a new attacking shape used against the two South American opponents, involving both fullbacks adopting more central positions.

"I won't steal his thunder by saying too much about it," Moriyasu said when asked about the new tactic.

While it had a limited impact against Uruguay, the more flexible formation generated attacking opportunities against Colombia.

Borussia Monchengladbach defender Ko Itakura, who captained Japan for the first time on Tuesday, was positive about the team's new direction.

"We had some issues, but it wasn't like we couldn't cope with them," the 26-year-old said. "I want to build on that and try more new things."

Moriyasu emphasized that his experimentation with fresh lineups -- including new fullbacks Yukinari Sugawara of Holland's AZ Alkmaar and FC Tokyo's Kashif Bangnagande -- was part of the building process toward the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

"It really is a new team," he said. "We absolutely won't be talking too much about what we did up to this point. We need to have a sense of starting anew."

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