Japan march on

Photo taken from Gulf News
Japan faced their toughest challenge yet on Monday at the Asian Cup, this was as they faced Iran in the Semi-Finals. On paper, this was all set for a tight affair with many backing Iran to overcome the Blue Samurai and go on to become champions of Asia. The Japanese had other ideas however and looked to ruin the party for Iran. 

Japan win comfortably in the end 

Iran before their match with Japan had lived up to their hype as the favourites for the Asian Cup. After many years it looked like under Carlos Queiroz the Iranians would become champions of Asia for the first time since 1976.

Taking this all into account Iran went into the match as slight favourites having scored 12 and conceded zero before the match at the tournament. They had also looked very impressive and had been pushed throughout, this was compared to Japan who had not got in to top gear yet before the Semi-Final tie.

After an even first half in which Iran had the best chance to go ahead Japan finally hit that top gear, we'd been waiting for. We witnessed this as they swept Iran aside in the second half of the Semi-Final and booked their place in the Final.

In truth, it could have been more than three goals also as Ōsako and others missed chances to extend the lead. Am sure they will take the 3-0 scoreline and go into Fridays final full of confidence that they will become champions of Asia for a record fifth time.

To the game itself 

It was to be a goalless first half in which the best chance fell to Iran although in truth there was not a lot to get excited about in the opening 45 minutes. The crowd was made up of a majority of Iran fans and at the half time whistle am sure they felt the 43-year wait for the Asian Cup could be over. 

The decent opening half performance was to all be undone for Iran in 11 second-half minutes. This was seen at the player from Werder Bremen scored twice to put his team two goals up after 67 minutes. 

The first of these two goals came in the 56th minute in comical circumstances as the defence stopped thinking a free kick had been giving. Meanwhile, Minamino paid no attention and crossed it in for Ōsako to head home. The Iranian keeper Beiranvand did not cover himself in glory coming for the ball and missing it also. 

Then on 67 minutes, Japan was awarded a penalty when Pouraliganji made a slide tackle in the box and his hand hit the ball from a Minamino cross. It was one of those that you could argue was a ball to hand but in the end, through the use of VAR, I think the Australian referee made the right call in giving the spot kick which Ōsako slotted home comfortably. 

The game was all over in the 91st minute when Genki Haraguchi added a third to make the scoreline as emphatic as it deserved. 

After the game, it was clear the Iran players and management team were gutted as this was seen with coach Carlos Queiroz announcing he was quitting after eight years with the Iran national side this was recognised as he said. 
"I think the simplest thing to do is to copy the old song: 'and now, the end is here, I'm happy and proud to say I did it my way."

UAE or Qatar await 

Japan will not have long to wait to see who they will face in the final also with the UAE taking on Qatar in the other Semi-Final on Tuesday. The final will then take place on Friday in Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

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