Japan beats Qatar 3-2 to make Asian Cup semifinals

Masahiko Inoha scored a late winner Friday to give 10-man Japan

a thrilling 3-2 win over Qatar in the Asian Cup quarterfinals and

deny the 2022 World Cup host a chance to reach the semifinals for

the first time.

Striker Shinji Kagawa scored the first two goals for Japan and

then helped set up the third. The Borussia Dortmund striker

received a pass in the area in the 89th minute and was taken down

by Qatar midfielder Mesaad Ali. The ball bounced into the path of

Inoha, and the defender slotted it into an empty net.

Qatar opened the scoring in the 12th minute through Sebastian

Suria, but Kagawa equalized in the 28th. The hosts went ahead again

in the 62nd from Fabio Cesar’s free kick. That came after Japan

defender Maya Yoshida received a second yellow card and was sent

off for a clumsy challenge on striker Yusef Ahmed.

Japan leveled with a close-range drive from Kagawa eight minutes

later before netting the winner, setting up a semifinal match

against either Iran or South Korea.

”Actually it was a very difficult match. Qatar used their

physical ability to play against us,” Japan’s Italian coach

Alberto Zaccheroni said. ”It was up to us to play with tempo and

to use the space, which we did quite well, although not as well as

I expected. After we went down to 10 men, we had more possession

compared to Qatar. It was a great comeback. Our defender scored our

third goal and that showed what Japanese football is about.”

Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima said the match showed his team

”are growing up,” a reference to the fact that Zaccheroni was

forced to bring on several untested players before the tournament

after veteran defenders Yuji Nakazawa, Marcus Tulio Tanaka and

Catania forward Takayuki Morimoto were injured.

”It was a really tough game,” Kawashima said. ”After we lost

the second goal and one player went out with red card, it was

tough. We just focused and went goal by goal. We didn’t lose

control. We are showing we are growing up through this Asian


Japan, ranked 76 places above Qatar in the FIFA world rankings,

came in as the heavy favorite but struggled early against host

team, which was buoyed by a crowd of 19,479 at Al Gharafa Stadium.

The 105th-ranked Qataris had said before the match they wanted to

put on a good show to prove they can play with one of Asia’s best

teams and to start building a good team ahead of the 2022 World


It was only their second appearance in the quarterfinals in

eight Asian Cup appearances.

”We’ve showed the whole world, the Qatar team is very strong,”

Qatar coach Bruno Metsu said. ”We showed we weren’t frightened

playing against a very good Japan team. We showed we can play good

football, but we made mistakes and we conceded goals because of

these mistakes.”

Qatar had a dangerous chance early when a drive from Qatar’s Ali

from well outside the area was saved by Kawashima in the eighth

minute, and Suria struck four minutes later.

The Uruguayan-born striker dashed down the right side,

sidestepped Yoshida and fired home his first goal of the tournament

to send the crowd into a brief frenzy.

Japan, which had controlled much of the possession to that

point, kept its poise. The patient approach paid off when Keisuke

Honda fed Shinji Okazaki in the area and floated it over Qatar

keeper Qasem Burhan. Kagawa, the team’s leading scorer, came

rushing in and headed it into the net to even the match.

It was the fourth goal of the tournament for the 21-year-old

striker, who has also scored eight goals for Borussia Dortmund in

the Bundesliga this season.

Qatar took the lead again after the break. Ahmed got tangled up

with Yoshida and earned a free kick just outside the area. It was

Yoshida’s second yellow card, reducing Japan to 10 men.

Cesar, who had just come on a substitute, sent a curling free

kick that caught a blinded Kawashima off guard and into the


Japan came back again in the 70th minute behind the efforts of

Okazaki and Kagawa. Okazaki possessed the ball outside the area and

fed Kagawa, who slid to the left of the onrushing Burhan and

slotted home his second goal of the match.

”I was really happy with that goal,” Kagawa said. ”In front

of the goal, it was a mess. Luckily, it came to me. I had an eye on

the ‘keeper and really wanted to score.”

The teams traded chances over the next 20 minutes before Inoha

struck the winner, sending the Japanese players streaming from the


Qatari fans leaving the stadium expressed a mixture of

frustration and admiration for a team many had doubted would make

it out of the group stage.

”We really are shocked. No one believes that we lost,” said

Ali Hussein, a 29-year-old fan. ”We scored twice first, then they

scored. We should have preserved our goal and defended well. Now

the cup has gone. All our dreams are gone now.”


Japan: Eiji Kawashima; Masahiko Inoha, Yasuyuki Konno, Yuto

Nagatomo, Yasuhito Endo, Shinji Okazaki, Shinji Kagawa (Mitsuru

Nagata, 93), Ryoichi Maeda (Daiki Iwamasa, 64), Makoto Hasebe,

Keisuke Honda, Maya Yoshida.

Qatar: Qasem Burhan; Hamid Ismail, Lawrence Quay, Bilal

Mohammed, Wesam Rizik, Mesaad Ali (Jaralla al-Marri, 90), Yousef

Ahmed, Ibrahim Majed (Khaled Muftah, 14), Mohamed al-Sayed (Fabio

Cesar, 59), Ibrahim al-Ghanim, Sebastian Suria.