‘Provided the perfect goal’ GK Suzuki is the only ‘jade tea’ in Bahrain’s big win
Zion Suzuki (Sint-Truiden)’s insecurities were exposed again. This time, he gave his opponents a chance to score.
Suzuki made a “fatal mistake” that cost his team a late goal in their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup Round of 16 match against Bahrain at the Altumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Jan. 31 (KST). The team won 3-1 and advanced to the quarterfinals, but Japan still has goalkeeping risks.
It was 2-0 in the 20th minute. Bahrain’s Camille Alswad sent in a corner kick from the left side of the box, which was headed in by Haji Ali. Suzuki got a hand to it, but the ball didn’t go far. It floated just above Suzuki’s head. Suzuki tried to catch the second ball, but Ueda and Dongseon overlapped and the ball hit Ueda in the head and went into the goal.
Aside from the “bad luck” of Ueda and Dongseon overlapping, the team’s inability to handle the ball properly on set pieces was unsettling. Up until the first half, it seemed that the team would be able to settle down and play a more “normal” game, such as reliably dealing with Bahrain’s shots, but this was not to be.
Suzuki has been the target of a lot of criticism this tournament for making costly mistakes. Ball handling was an issue in the first group game against Vietnam. In the second game against Iraq, it was sloppy play. In the fifth minute of the first half, Iraq’s Ali Jassim crossed in front of the goal, but instead of going far, the ball went into the danger zone. Striker Aymen Hussein, who was standing in front of the goal, was quick to head it home.
Suzuki is a “mixed race goalkeeper” born in 2002. Born to a Ghanaian father and Japanese mother, he has represented Japan at every age group.
With the 2026 North and Central American World Cup on the horizon, Moriyasu decided to change the generation of goalkeepers starting with this tournament. Suzuki, who broke into the A team at last year’s East Asian Cup, has been touted as the “No. 1 keeper,” but he has often been shaky, conceding crucial chances to opponents. One mistake could prove fatal in the knockout stages.
Japan, who are fielding a 20-man European squad in their quest for a fifth title, have been steadily improving with each match. With Kaoru Mitoma making her comeback from injury today, they have a ‘full-strength’ lineup. Despite a comfortable 3-1 victory over Bahrain, Suzuki’s error was the only ‘chink in the armor’.