The UAE claimed a shock win over the defending champions, downing Samurai Blue on penalties after the game had ended 1-1 after extra time.
Ali's team took a seventh-minute goal from Ali Mabkhout and then adopted a defensive formation as they looked to protect their lead. While they could no stop Gaku Shibasaki from equalising nine minutes from time, the tactic was ultimately successful.
“I said yesterday that it would be a tough game,” Ali said after the clash. “We played a fantastic game against Iran, but we lost at the end of the match.
“Today, I told the players that we don’t always have to play very nice football to win, sometimes you have to play with your heart and your spirit and we worked very hard to win this game.
“The players were feeling tired and we were leading the game, so we made some changes because Japan were playing on the side and they were controlling the midfield,” Ali added of his tactics.
“Football sometimes is not fair. It was not fair for us in the Iran game, but today we won and we deserve to go to the semi-final."
The UAE will face hosts Australia in the semi-finals.