Japan see off Saudi to reach quarters
A first half header from a corner by Takehiro Tomiyasu was enough to see Japan over Saudi Arabia to make it into the Asian Cup quarter-finals.
Japan 1-0 Saudi Arabia: match report
A first-half goal from Takehiro Tomiyasu was enough to send Japan into the Asian Cup quarter-finals for the eighth consecutive tournament after a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia at Sharjah Stadium on Monday.
The Saudis, looking to end a 23-year drought since their third continental title, paid the price for failing to convert their chances and so the four-times champion Samurai Blue progress to face Vietnam on Thursday.
Japan went in front in the 20th minute when defender Tomiyasu rose above a Saudi defender in the centre of the box to head a corner into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Saudi Arabia dictated play in both halves but were simply unable to finish in front of goal as the Samurai Blue defenders put in a solid shift.
Midfielder Salem Aldawsari had a golden opportunity to put the Green Falcons level in the 62nd minute but sprayed the ball over the bar with a right footed shot from the centre of the box.
Moments later defender Ali Hadi Albulayhi guided the ball well over the bar with a free header after an inviting Aldawsari cross into the penalty area.
Japan, who claimed their last title in 2011, had won all three of its previous tournament matches to finish top of their group, while Saudi Arabia finished second in theirs with wins over North Korea and Lebanon.
Japan vs Saudi Arabia live online: match updates
Japan vs Saudi Arabia live online: preview
Japan and Saudi Arabia play in the last 16 tie in the Asian Cup having breezed through their groups. The only loss for either side came when Saudi Arabia lost to Qatar in their third match having won their opening two with a 6-0 scoring difference. Both sides made it to the World Cup in 2018 and the Japanese stole many hearts with their cleaning up efforts in the stadiums after the games, but they had their hearts broken by Belgium with a last minute goal that knocked them out. They were excellent that day and while Saudi Arabia could not make it out of the group, they made it very tough for Uruguay and beat Egypt after getting off to a dreadful start against Russia in the first game. They will likely play a reactionary style on Monday in what is one of the best ties in the tournament to date.
Japan are perfect in the Asian Cup so far with wins over Turkmenistan, Oman and Uzbekistan. They are into the last 16 and their manager, Hajime Moriyasu, says they are eyeing a quarter-final spot after a successful group stage: "We have used 22 players during the group stage and this has brought us to the knockout round. And we’re looking at the quarter-finals now." The Japanese are unbeaten since 2011 in the Asian Cup and have won it on four occasions. They didn't win it in 2015 and were beaten on penalties after winning three and drawing one on their way to the quarter-finals. Only once since they fist qualified, in 1988, have the failed to make it out of the group stage and that was back in their first Asian Cup. Along with their four wins, they have a fourth place finish along with being knocked out in the quarter-finals in 1996 and the most recent heartbreak in 2015.
Saudi Arabia have made it to the final on every occasion they have made it out of the group. That is six finals in total: 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2007. They have won it three times too. the only problem is that they haven't gotten out of the group since 2007 and they haven't won it since 1996 as their manager Juan Antonio Pizzi faces one of the best teams in the tournament. He knows exactly how tough the Samurai Blue are too: "They are considered Asia's best. But we are high on confidence, that's why we are here. It will not be an easy game for us but we will try to win.”