Spain star Bonmatí fumes after Japan thrashing


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Aitana Bonmatí said Spain are “pissed off” after suffering a shock 4-0 loss to Japan on Monday, but the midfielder hopes they can use the game to kickstart their FIFA World Cup campaign.

Japan scored three times in the first half and added a fourth late on as they stunned Spain at Wellington Regional Stadium to take top spot in Group C, setting up a round-of-16 tie with Norway.

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Despite the defeat, Spain still progress to the knockout rounds courtesy of wins against Costa Rica and Zambia. They meet Switzerland in Auckland on Saturday.

“[The team is] pissed off, I am really pissed off,” Barcelona‘s Bonmatí told reporters after the game. “A 4-0 hurts. I don’t think I have had time to really think about this defeat. I am not a player who is used to losing like this.

“I am lucky to win a lot of games and I am not used to it at all, but these things make you stronger, help you reflect and go out in the next game with renewed energy.

“You have to ride with the punches in football and move forward. This was not our best game and we know we have to improve a lot of things if we want to continue in the tournament.

“This will unite us more than ever. I am a player that in tough moments, my character shines through even more. I don’t want to see anyone downbeat and, if I do, I try to pick them up because that doesn’t help anyone. We acknowledge it was not good enough, but now we want to kick on and go again.”

Bonmatí said she was surprised by the tactics used by Japan, who have laid down a marker as one of the favourites for the tournament in the group stage, winning all three of their games, scoring 11 goals and conceding none.

“Japan played a really intelligent game,” she added. “I personally was surprised by their tactics, utilising a low block, waiting for our mistakes and attacking on the counter, where they killed us.

“We have to learn from this. First of all, how to attack low blocks, because I am sure other teams will play the same way, and then, when we’re attacking, how to be prepared to defend transitions. They killed us there.

“But I need to see the game again and analyse it because you learn from everything, sometimes more from defeats and big setbacks than wins. I said it after [the 2022 Champions League final defeat to Lyon in] Turin, you learn from these things and they help you improve.”

The game was expected to be a tight affair between two of the better teams at the World Cup so far, but Japan blew Spain away in the first half despite letting them have the ball.

Spain had 77% of the possession in the opening 45 minutes, attempted 470 passes and spent over five minutes in the final third.

In comparison, Japan attempted just 144 passes and spent just 27 seconds in the final third, but scored with all three of their shots, two from Hinata Miyazawa and one from Riko Ueki. Mina Tanaka added the fourth late on.

“Someone told me that in the first half Japan only spent 20-something seconds in our half and scored three goals — that is some statistic,” Bonmatí said when asked what was the worst part of the night.

“Also, the feeling that we struggled to create for all the ball possession we had because, as much as they set up well defensively, we are a team with resources and we have to use them better in these games.

“We don’t want a repeat of this, but it will help us to move forward. We are professionals and we have to accept losses, even if it’s hard.”

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