Thu, Jul 22, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Japan and Iran victorious in Asian Cup matches

AP , BEIJING

Defending champion Japan and former three-time winner Iran both won at the Asian Cup on Tuesday while Qatar fired coach Philippe Troussier two days after the Gulf state was beaten by Indonesia in its opening game.

Iran scored three times in the final 20 minutes, capped off by Ali Daei's 95th career goal on an 87th-minute penalty, and beat Thailand 3-0. Shunsuke Nakamura scored the only goal in the 33rd minute and two-time and defending champion Japan staved off a late push by Oman to win 1-0.

Troussier said he was "bitterly disappointed and really surprised" when told of his dismissal Tuesday morning.

"I never thought I would leave at this point after all the hard work I have put in," said Troussier, who led Japan to the Asian Cup title in 2004 and into the second round of the World Cup two years ago. "I planned to continue to the end of the tournament with ambition and with determination."

The 49-year-old Troussier, nicknamed the "White Witch Doctor"during earlier coaching stints with Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and South Africa, has had mixed results since taking over Oman just over a year ago. The team suffered consecutive losses to Jordan and Iran earlier this year in World Cup qualifying and midway through Asian qualifying is third in its four-team group.

He will be replaced by Saeid Al Misnad, who led Qatar's under-17 team to the quarterfinals of the U17 World Championship three times.

"We respect Troussier, he is one of the best coaches to have worked in Asia," said Fahd Al Quwairi, a member of Qatar's delegation to the Cup.

In Chongquing, China, second-half substitute Reza Enayati gave Iran the lead in the 70th minute off a cross from Ali Karimi and Javad Nekournam also scored to lift his country to the top of Group D.

"It wasn't that easy to score right away because we didn't have a weak opponent," Iran's Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic said. "But you have to have patience and I was sure that because we had quality players we could score over the 90 minutes."

Iran's attack began to gel midway through the second half, and finally capitalized when Karimi sent in a ball off the touch line that Enayati directed past Thai goalkeeper Kosin Hathairatanakul.

Nakamura scored from 15 meters, hitting a shot off the outside of his right foot as he fell, sending it just past diving keeper Ali Al Habsi.

Meanwhile, Asian Football Confederation General Secretary Peter Vellapan tried for a second day to calm a controversy about remarks he made Sunday that insinuated Beijing was an unsuitable host for the 2008 Olympics because of what he felt was rude treatment of himself and FIFA President Sepp Blatter at Saturday's Asian Cup opening game.

"The Asian Cup, especially in Beijing, is a learning experience for the organizers and an opportunity for them to have great benefit for the success of the Olympics," Vellapan said in a statement issued by the AFC.

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