Japan beats Iran to reach Asian Cup football final

Gabriel Tan

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Just 90 minutes and a win against Japan separate Iran from the final of the Asian Cup, a competition they have not won since 1976, but Carlos Queiroz has stressed that Iran must stay true to themselves to overcome a major test against the four-time record champions. "We have our own weapons to play with but of course we have to pay attention to the Japanese team and adapt and try to control the strong points, and they have a lot". "I want them to do the same thing tomorrow, to play aggressively and hopefully get the result".

It is fair to say VAR is going to be the focus in the post-match reaction, as Iran were furious an apparent dive by Minamino was allowed to go unpunished in the build-up to the first Japan goal, while there was certainly a reason for frustration with the penalty as well, with Pouraliganji perhaps unlucky to be penalised.

The semi-final defeat was Queiroz's 100th match in charge of Iran and he leaves having become the country's longest-serving coach.

Iranian Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Masoud Soltanifar also said Sunday that Iran's Football Federation will decide on Queiroz contract.

The UAE's biggest success in the tournament was to play in the 1996 Asian Cup final.

"We're not a flawless team and we're not a mature team, so we're developing in every game we play", he told reporters on Sunday.

"In each game the players are learning as well as getting the result and moving to the next step".

Japan forward Yuya Osako (R) celebrates after scoring one of his two goals against Iran during their Asian Cup semi-final match at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Monday.

Japan had been more workmanlike than wonderful before Monday's masterclass in Al Ain, winning their previous five matches all by single-goal margins.

"The players know that we are playing with persistence and they are trying each time to express our team concept".

Run by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and extended to feature 24 teams, the 17th edition of the quadrennial AFC Asian Cup is running from January 5 to February 1.

Yuya Osako put Japan 1-0 up after halftime when the Iranian defence fatally stopped to remonstrate with the referee, and then stroked home the penalty awarded after a replay for Morteza Pouraliganji's accidental hand ball. "In order to win we have to play aggressively".

"I'm happy the players showed that fighting spirit and really went for the win".

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