Japan march into U23 semi-finals

Japan needed extra-time to beat Iran 3-0 and move into the semi-final stage of the AFC Under-23 Championship on Friday evening.

The win keeps Japan’s hopes alive of reaching a sixth straight appearance at the Olympic Games and they are now one win away of achieving that ahead of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

The extra-time goals were scored by Yuta Toyokawa and a brace from Shoya Nakajima. Japan will next face the winners of either the United Arab Emirates or Iraq in the semi-finals with the winner securing a place at the Olympics.

The Iranians started well when in the second minute Arsalan Motahhari broke through only to have his goalward shot saved by goalkeeper Masatoshi Kushibiki. From the resulting corner, Ali Karimi headed narrowly wide.

Yuya Kubo nearly gave Japan the lead in the 26th minute when he hammered a low shot from an angle that went narrowly wide of the post.

In the 37th minute, Iran should have taken the lead when Naomichi Ueda made a mess of a clearance and the ball fell to Motahhari, who missed, shooting wide from in front of goal.

Iran looked good in normal time but could not get past a well-drilled Japan defence as the game went to extra-time.

Five minutes in the first period, Japan took the lead when Toyokawa headed home from Sei Muroya’s cross.

Four minutes into the second period of extra-time Nakajima put his side 2-0 up when he scored with a shot into the top corner and a minute later he scored again to finish Iran off.

In the later quarter-final match, Qatar beat North Korea 2-1 in extra-time to reach the semi-finals.

In the fifth minute, Akram Afif gave Qatar the lead before Kyong-Jin So got the equaliser in the 90th minute.

In the second minute of extra-time Ali Assadalla scored and his side held out for the win.