Qatar 2, Japan 3
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
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.