Unlucky Japan lose AFC Asian Cup final
In the final, the Samurai Blue lost 3-1 to Qatar at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Friday
Japan, the four-time AFC Asian Cup champions, failed in their mission to add another title and lift the new trophy in the UAE Capital.
In the final, the Samurai Blue lost 3-1 to Qatar at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Friday.
Japan fought until the last second, and like a champion side, dug deep to grab a positive result but couldn't succeed.
Despite enjoying the major chunk of possession and attacks, Japan lacked luck in the final third of the pitch.
Japan didn't have the best of starts too. Star striker Yuya Osako, who had scored with each of his last six shots on target, missed with his first attempt in the fourth minute.
The Werder Bremen player combined well with Hannover 96 winger Genki Haraguchi to produce some sublime play.
A goal finally came but at the other end through the partnership of Qatar strikers Akram Afif and Almoez Ali.
Afif crossed into the box, Ali tapped the ball from his left to right, there was another tap and then a right-footer bicycle kick to score his ninth goal of the tournament. With the strike, he also broke the record for most goals in a tournament held by Iran's Ali Daei.
This was Afif's fifth assist for Ali.
Minutes later Qatar doubled the lead as Abdelaziz Hatim converted from another Afif pass. On both occasions, it was the Japanese skipper and defender Maya Yoshida who got beaten.
Despite the double strike, Japan kept pushing through Ritsu Doan and Al Ain's Tsukasa Shiotani. Japan came close through a header from Yoshida.
It was all Japan in the second half as the Samurai Blue returned with vengeance. They showed greater appetite and the introduction of substitute Yoshinori Muto, the Newcastle United striker, added more teeth to attack.
Muto twice came close with his headers. And just when it looked that nothing was going their way, Japan scored as Takumi Minamino tapped ball past keeper Saad Al Sheeb.
Japan pressed with all their might as the likes of Doan, Muto, Yoshida and Yuto Nagatomo came close inside the Qatari box.
But in 82nd minute, Japan conceded a hand ball. An unfortunate night for Yoshida just got terrible. The video assistant referee found him guilty of handling the ball inside the box. And Afif, who had so far created 20 goal scoring opportunities in this edition, made it 3-1 from the penalty spot.
It was a sad end to the biggest Asian Cup tournament for Japan as Qatar won the title.
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