Japan and defending champions Iran are to vie for the Asian Football Confederation Futsal Championship title in the final tomorrow, after defeating challengers Iraq and Uzbekistan respectively in impressive style at the Sinjhuang Gymnasium in New Taipei City yesterday.
In the afternoon’s semi-final, three-time champions Japan sealed their place in the final by scoring three times in the first half and fighting off a vigorous challenge from Iraq on the way to a 3-0 victory.
The Samurai Warriors notched ahead less than one minute into the match on a set-piece combination.
Photo: Asian Football Confederation
Manabu Takita floated a high cross from a corner to mid-court, which striker Kaoru Morioka blasted past Iraq goalkeeper Yahya Abdulnoor.
In the sixth minute, Japan scored again on another corner, with captain Akira Minamoto setting up Ryosuke Nishitani for a tap-in at the far post.
Just before the intermission, Katsutoshi Henmi on a quick counter tricked his way past a defender and crossed to Yuki Murota to slot home at close range.
Iraq tried to find a goal with good possession and control in the second half, but were repeatedly denied by Japan’s solid defense and some outstanding saves by Brazil-born goalkeeper Higor Pires.
“It was a really nice first half, we scored three goals, and in the second half Iraq played power play for nine minutes, but we kept a really good defense,” Japan’s Spanish head coach Bruno Garcia said. “I am really happy with the result. Today the team showed a great performance.”
In the evening semi-final, Madhi Javid scored a hat-trick to power Iran past Uzbekistan 7-1.
Hossein Tayebi and Ali Asghar Hassanzadeh tallied a brace each for Team Melli, while Anaskhon Rakhamatov replied with the lone goal for Uzbekistan in the second half.
“This is our goal for the tournament, to reach the final and defend our title,” Iran head coach Mohammad Nazemasharieh said after the match. “We respect Japan very much, they are one of the strongest teams in Asia, but we will have a different game plan against them, and the fans will see a different side of Iran on Sunday.”
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