Japan book final spot in style
Taipei: Japan displayed their brilliance as they advanced to the final of the AFC Futsal Championship 2018 after defeating Iraq 3-0 at the Xinzhuang Stadium on Friday.
Three first half goals from Kaoru Morioka, Ryosuke Nishitani and Yuki Murota proved to be enough to seal a ninth AFC Futsal Championship final appearance for Japan.
The three-time champions kicked off the game in a spectacular fashion, with Morioka finding the back of the net with a right footed volley, courtesy of Manabu Takita’s corner, in the first 40 seconds.
Japan doubled their lead in the sixth minute when they won another corner and Nishitani made no mistake from close range, sliding the ball home from the set-play.
Iraq’s best opportunities were from counter-attacks, and in the 11th minute, the West Asians closest attempt came when Waleed Khalid neatly intercepted ‘keeper Higor Pires’ pass but his shot went off the mark.
After accruing five fouls by the 12th minute, Haitham Abbas’ charges were forced to play with a little more caution, and 20 seconds from the half-time whistle, Pires took advantage of that and threw the ball upfront to Katsutoshi Rafael Henmi, who passed to Murota for an easy tap in.
Iraq returned in the second half more in control but couldn’t find an opening.
They came close numerous times but Pires was rock solid as he saved every shot to secure Japan’s place in the final.
Japan will meet defending champions the Islamic Republic of Iran in Sunday's final.
Haitham Abbas: Iraq Head Coach
“We know the Japanese are a good team, very experienced in futsal. We knew they were good in set-pieces and the players didn’t focus on that in the first half. But in the second half we told our players to concentrate more on that. We corrected our mistakes in the second half, and Japan didn’t score anymore. Our players had so many chances, but we couldn’t score.”
Bruno Garcia: Japan Head Coach
“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 defence. I am really happy with the result. Today the team showed a great performance.”