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Japan Advances in the Asian Cup and Iraq Maintains 100% Winning Run on Its Way to the Knockout Stage

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
Indonesia’s Jordi Amat, right, defends Japan’s Ayase Ueda during the Asian Cup Group D soccer match between Japan and Indonesia at Al Thumama in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024.

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Japan got its Asian Cup campaign back on track by advancing to the knockout stage after a 3-1 win against Indonesia on Wednesday.

The pre-tournament favorite surprisingly lost to Iraq in its second Group D match last week to leave its hopes of winning a record-extending fifth Asian Cup title in jeopardy.

But any concerns that it could face an early exit were swept away at Al Thumama Stadium after two goals from Ayase Ueda put the four-time champion on course for victory.

Justin Hubner scored a late own goal and Sandy Walsh pulled one back for Indonesia in added time.

Iraq advanced as group winner ahead of second-placed Japan with a perfect record. Substitute Aymen Hussein scored from the penalty spot in the 12th minute of stoppage time to beat 10-man Vietnam 3-2 at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.

UEDA DOUBLE

It took Ueda just six minutes to settle any nerves Japan’s players and fans might have been feeling going into their final group game.

The Feyenoord striker had won the spot kick after being fouled by Jordi Amat and fired his shot into the right hand corner beyond Indonesia goalkeeper Ernando Ari Sutaryadi to open the scoring.

He doubled Japan’s lead in the 52nd — and when Hubner diverted another effort from Ueda into his own goal in the 88th the win looked beyond doubt.

Walsh scored a consolation in added time and Indonesia, on three points, will have to wait to see if it advances as one of the best third-placed teams.

AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
Japan’s Ayase Ueda, 1st right, celebrates with his team mates after scoring the first goal by penalty during the Asian Cup Group D soccer match between Japan and Indonesia at Al Thumama in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024.

HUSSEIN DELIVERS

Having already missed one penalty after coming on as a halftime substitute, Hussein converted from the spot deep into stoppage time to maintain Iraq’s perfect record in Group D.

Hussein is the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals and that record might have been even better had he not struck the post with his earlier penalty against Vietnam.

He still managed to have a key impact on the match with two goals as the 2007 champion came from behind to make it three wins out of three.

Vietnam had taken the lead through Bui Hoang Viet Anh in the 42nd — but Khuat Van Khang was sent off in first-half stoppage time for a second yellow card.

It took only two minutes of the second half for Rebin Solaka to even the score for Iraq and Hussein headed his team in front in the 73rd.

Hussein failed to score from the spot 10 minutes later when firing against the post and that miss looked to be costly when substitute Nguyen Quang Hai leveled the game in the 91st.

That was until Hussein was given the chance to make amends for his earlier penalty and he made no mistake from the spot on this occasion.

AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
Iraq’s Aymen Hussein celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Asian Cup Group D soccer match between Iraq and Vietnam at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024.