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Hussein Scores Twice as Iraq Upsets Japan to Reach Asian Cup Knockout Stage

AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
Japanese players react after the Asian Cup Group C soccer match between Iraq and Japan at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. Iraq won 2-1.

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Aymen Hussein scored both goals as Iraq shocked Asian Cup favorite Japan 2-1 to claim a place in the knockout stage on Friday.

Hussein struck twice in the first half at Education City Stadium to inflict Japan’s first group-stage loss at the Asian Cup since 1988. An injury-time header from Wataru Endo was a late consolation for Japan.

The win lifted Iraq, the 2007 champion, to the top of Group D and a guaranteed spot in the round of 16. Four-time winner Japan, Asia’s highest-ranked team at 17, was second.

It’s impossible to have a perfect match but we were close to perfect, Iraq’s Spanish coach, Jesus Casas, said. “It is a great day for the people of Iraq.”

Iraq took the lead after just six minutes when Japan goalkeeper Zion Suzuki palmed Ali Jasim’s cross from the left straight to Hussein, who headed it home.

Japan streamed forward in search of an equalizer but Iraq defended in numbers and doubled its lead in first-half added time. Hussein headed in Aymed Yahya’s cross.

Conceding at the end of the first half hit us hard and made it a very difficult game, Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said.

Japan was awarded a penalty 10 minutes into the second half after Takuma Asano was judged to have fouled by Rebin Sulaka. However, referee Khalid Al-Turais overturned his original decision after viewing the pitchside monitor.

Endo eventually got Japan within a goal in added time when goalkeeper Jalal Hachim failed to collect the ball.

Indonesia moved level with Japan in the standings after beating Vietnam 1-0.

The deadlock was broken after 42 minutes when Nguyen Thanh Binh pulled Rafael Struick’s shirt in the area. Captain Asnawi Mangkualam fired home the penalty to give Indonesia the victory and a chance of a place in the second stage for the first time.

Vietnam, which has lost both of its games, was reduced to 10 men late in the game after Le Pham Thanh Long’s second yellow card.

In the final round of games in the group on Wednesday, Vietnam takes on Iraq while Japan meets Indonesia.

In Group C, Iran defeated Hong Kong 1-0 to secure a place in the round of 16. Mehdi Ghayedi scored with more than an hour left.

The win put three-time champion Iran on top, two points ahead of the United Arab Emirates. The teams meet on Tuesday. Hong Kong stayed on the bottom with successive defeats, a point behind final group opponent Palestine.