Iran coach Carlos Queiroz on Thursday warned of the Asian Cup’s apex predators after his title chasers ruthlessly dispatched China 3-0 to set up a semi-final against Japan.
Ritsu Doan scored from the spot in Japan’s 1-0 win over Vietnam earlier in the day as the video assistant referee (VAR) marked its tournament debut with a bang.
Iran continued their quest to end a barren run at the Asian Cup dating back 43 years with Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun and Karim Ansarifard all on target in Abu Dhabi, but Queiroz said his side should not be labeled title favorites, despite ending Marcello Lippi’s reign as China coach in such a clinical fashion.
“Now we know the big sharks will come for us,” the former Real Madrid coach said. “The suit of favorites doesn’t fit us. Japan, [South] Korea are coming, so we need to be more alert — what we did against China will not be enough.”
It was another dominant performance from Iran, who also equaled South Korea’s record of keeping clean sheets in their first five games at an Asian Cup finals.
China finished runners-up in 1984 and 2004, but the sleeping giants of Asia were no match for Iran as their challenge ended in a whimper.
“Many people might have expected this result, but I’m angry at how it happened,” said Lippi, who is stepping down after two years in charge.
“You cannot afford to gift a team like Iran three goals,” added the 70-year-old, who steered his native Italy to World Cup glory in 2006. “It has been a huge honor to be the coach of China. I wish it didn’t have to end on such a gloomy note.”
Japan won the last of their record four Asian Cups in 2011 and have hardly set the world alight at the tournament, but the Blue Samurai had too much quality for Vietnam in Dubai, Doan converting a spot-kick on 57 minutes after a penalty awarded by VAR.
Japan captain Maya Yoshida also had a headed goal chalked off for handball on review in a game Hajime Moriyasu’s side never looked like losing.
“It doesn’t matter how you win — the important thing is to get through,” Moriyasu said. “We knew Vietnam would be obdurate opponents, but the players kept their focus and we move on.”
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