Japan seal Asian Cup 2019 final spot with second half blitz
Three second half goals from Samurai Blue were enough to see-off tournament favourites Iran as Japan prepare for their fifth final in the past eight Asian Cups.
Iran vs Japan: preview
Key Iran-Japan facts:
- This will be the fourth Asian Cup meeting between Iran and Japan, with their other three encounters coming in the group stages, Iran failing to score on each occasion (D2 L1).
Iran-Japan: what they said
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said the description of his side as favourites to win the Asian Cup was an "ill-fitting tag" as he prepares to face Japan in the semi-final without three-goal forward Mehdi Taremi.
Queiroz claimed Team Melli had achieved their tournament objective after Taremi scored the opening goal in a 3-0 quarter-final victory over China to help them reach the competition's last four for the ninth time.
"Our dream has always been to be in the middle of the top teams in the final four, something which we have now done and are very happy about," said the 65-year-old told. "In front of us we have just another game. Of course, the game has added significance in terms of enthusiasm and excitement, but when the whistle goes you simply have to play."
Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu welcomes Yoshinori Muto back after he served a suspension and the Newcastle United forward will add much-needed creativity to the low-scoring Samurai Blue. Moriyasu's men won each of their last four games by a one-goal margin, but he said his players are on a learning curve.
"The approach will be based on our opponents, but we have learnt so much in the Asian Cup," said Moriyasu, before learning Japan would face Iran at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium.
"We have had to defend, as was the case against Saudi Arabia [1-0 victory in the round of 16] and sometimes we dominated but couldn't find a way through. "These experiences will be used to prepare the team for the semi-final."
Players to watch:
Sardar Azmoun (Iran)
Rubin Kazan forward Azmoun has lived up to his billing as Iran's attacking talisman, scoring four goals across the tournament so far including their second in the quarter-final win over China.
Yoshinuri Muto (Japan)
Japan's tournament got off to a poor start when they fell behind against Uzbekistan in their opening match, but Muto equalised three minutes later and his cool head will be essential as they aim to reach the final.
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