Asia AFC Asian Cup

Japan Cruise Past Bahrain into the Quarterfinals

On Wednesday, four time AFC Asian Cup winners Japan secured a spot in the quarterfinals of the2023 edition of the competition with a 3-1 victory over Bahrain at Al Thumama Stadium. Goals from Ritsu Doan, Takefusa Kubo, and Ayase Ueda propelled the Samurai Blue into the last eight.

Despite a slight hiccup when Ueda accidentally scored an own goal in the second half, Hajime Moriyasu’s team delivered a solid performance. They will face Iran, who overcame Syria on penalties, in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

The scoring action began in the 31st minute when Doan found the net, followed by Kubo doubling the lead three minutes into the second half. A mix-up between Ueda and Zion Suzuki allowed Bahrain to narrow the gap in the 64th minute, but Ueda redeemed himself by scoring eight minutes later, securing a two-goal cushion for Japan.

The own goal by Ueda was a rare moment of uncertainty for Japan, who dominated the game from early on. The Japanese side created opportunities, with Ueda’s header in the ninth minute requiring a save from Bahrain goalkeeper Ebrahim Lutfalla.

Although Bahrain had a rare counterattack, with Ali Madan’s shot comfortably saved by Suzuki, Japan continued to assert their dominance. The opening goal came after Seiya Maikuma’s shot hit the post and rebounded to Doan, who controlled the ball and calmly finished.

Ko Itakura’s header from Kubo’s free-kick early in the second half widened the lead, and Kubo showcased quick thinking to capitalize on a defensive error, ultimately securing the goal after a review overturned an initial offside call.

Despite a momentary setback with the own goal, Japan regained control as Ueda’s burst of pace and composed finish ensured their progression to the quarterfinals.