AFC U23 Championships

Japan U-23 Eliminate Qatar U-23 with Extra-Time Triumph

Japan U-23 secured their spot in the semi-finals of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup with a hard-fought 4-2 victory over tournament hosts Qatar U-23, propelled by extra-time goals from Mao Hosoya and Kotaro Uchino at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Thursday.

The breakthrough came 11 minutes into extra time when Hosoya skillfully slipped the ball past substitute goalkeeper Ali Korayem, breaking Qatar’s resilient defense. Uchino then sealed the deal with a goal seven minutes before the final whistle, propelling Go Oiwa’s team one step closer to both the tournament trophy and appearing in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Japan’s early lead, courtesy of Fuki Yamada’s second-minute strike, was short-lived as Ahmed Al Rawi equalized with a spectacular header. Despite Qatar’s temporary numerical disadvantage following Yousef Abdullah’s red card, they managed to take the lead through Jassem Gaber early in the second half. However, Seiji Kimura’s header in the 67th minute brought Japan level once again, setting the stage for Hosoya and Uchino’s late heroics.

The match showcased contrasting phases for Japan, with a rapid start followed by a period of Qatar’s resurgence. Japan initially seized control, with Yamamoto and Fujita orchestrating play, while Matsuki threatened with his attempts on goal. However, Qatar gradually gained momentum, capitalizing on defensive lapses to draw level through Al Rawi’s header.

Despite Hosoya’s missed opportunity before halftime and Abdullah’s dismissal, Qatar remained determined, taking the lead through Gaber’s precise finish early in the second half. Yet, Japan fought back valiantly, with Kimura equalizing to force extra time.

In the additional period, Hosoya capitalized on a chance created by Ryotaro Araki to put Japan ahead once more, before Uchino capitalized on a rebound from Sota Kawasaki’s shot to secure victory.

Japan’s triumph reflects their resilience and determination as they aim to extend their impressive Olympic Games qualification record, maintaining their dominance in the tournament.