• Soccer

Japan and Iran Win at Asian Cup to Set Up Quarterfinal Match

REUTERS/Molly Darlington
AFC Asian Cup – Round of 16 – Bahrain v Japan – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar – January 31, 2024 Japan’s Ayase Ueda scores their third goal

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Japan maintained its pursuit of a record-extending fifth Asian Cup title on Wednesday by advancing to the quarterfinals with a 3-1 win against Bahrain.

The pre-tournament favorite has bounced back from a surprise 2-1 loss against Iraq in the group stage and will play Iran in the next round.

Goals from Ritsu Doan, Takefusa Kubo and Ayase Ueda secured Japan’s place in the last eight, while Zion Suzuki’s own goal was the only consolation for Bahrain.

REUTERS/Rula Rouhana
AFC Asian Cup – Round of 16 – Bahrain v Japan – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha, Qatar – January 31, 2024 Japan’s Ayase Ueda scores their third goal
AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
Japan’s Ayase Ueda, right, celebrates with Japan’s Ritsu Doan after scoring his side’s third goal during the Asian Cup Round of 16 soccer match between Bahrain and Japan, at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.
AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
Japan’s Takefusa Kubo, left, celebrates after scoring his side’s second goal during the Asian Cup Round of 16 soccer match between Bahrain and Japan, at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.

Iran booked its place in the quarterfinals by beating Syria on penalties after the game ended 1-1 through extra time. It plays Japan at Education City Stadium on Saturday.

Japan went ahead in the 31st minute when Seiya Maikuma’s long-range shot came back off the post and Doan converted on the rebound.

Kubo doubled the lead four minutes into the second half when he spun and finished from close range.

Bahrain was given hope of a comeback in the 64th as Sayed Baqer’s powerful header was parried into the air by Suzuki. The Japan goalkeeper then tried to catch the ball, but collided with Ayase, who was attempting to head clear off the goal-line and the ball was fumbled into the net.

Ayase restored Japan’s two-goal advantage eight minutes later when firing low at the near post to beat Bahrain keeper Ebrahim Lutfalla.

AP Photo/Hussein Sayed
Japan’s celebrate their second goal during the Asian Cup round of 16 soccer match between Japan and Bahrain at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.

IRAN SCARE

Three-time champion Iran needed a penalty shootout to beat Syria, one of the tournament’s surprise packages.

Down to 10-men after Mehdi Taremi was sent off in time added on, Iran eventually won 5-3 on spot kicks at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.

The game had ended 1-1 through extra time. Taremi fired Iran ahead with a penalty in the 34th after he had been fouled by Aiham Ousou.

Syria then equalized from the spot through Omar Khrbin in the 64th after Pablo Sabbag was brought down by Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand.

Syria was playing in the knockout stage of the Asian Cup for the first time and was given an advantage when Taremi was sent off in the first minute of stoppage time for a second bookable offense. But it could not make the most of the extra man and the game remained level through extra time.

In the shootout, Beiranvand’s save from Fahd Youssef proved the decisive moment as Iran converted all of its spot kicks.

It is the eighth time in a row that Iran has advanced to the quarterfinals.

AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
Iran players celebrate after a penalty shootout at the end of the Asian Cup Round of 16 soccer match between Iran and Syria, at Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.