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Japan march into last four

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Taipei: Japan will play Iraq in the AFC Futsal Championship semi-finals after they defeated Bahrain 2-0 in Thursday’s quarter-final.

The Bahrainis were appearing in their first-ever knockout stage tie at the continental tournament and coach Adel Abdulrahman and his team had previously spoken of the challenge they faced against the three-time champions from East Asia.

As such, the West Asian nation set their stall out early, looking to sit back and play on the counter, but with six minutes gone Japan took the lead after Koichi Saito finished smartly from Shota Hoshi’s pass across from the left.

The Samurai Blue, who controlled proceedings for large spells in the first half as Bahrain defended deep and invited pressure, had further chances through Yuki Murota, but goalkeeper Sayed Fadhel was equal to his efforts.

On the occasions Bahrain attacked, usually taking the direct route, captain Mohamed Al Sandi worked hard to create opportunities for his side and Jassam Saleh tested Higor Pires on several occasions.

After the restart, though, Japan came out in force looking to extend their slim advantage and with seven minutes of the second half played they found their second.

Kazuya Shimizu received a pass from Tomoki Yoshikawa with his back to goal, spun Ahmed Abdulnabi, and beat Fadhel with a low shot at his near post.

In an attempt to reduce the deficit, Bahrain resorted to the power play but were unable to carve out much in the way of clear-cut chances, despite the outfield advantage.

After their shock failure to reach the competition’s final four two years ago in Uzbekistan, Japan were able to play out the remainder of the tie in some comfort and will now make their 14th semi-final appearance on Friday when they face the Iraqis, who had earlier defeated Lebanon on penalties.

Adel Abdulrahman, Bahrain Head Coach: "I would like to congratulate Japan for winning the match. The Japanese players were very strong and have one of the best players in the world, Rafael Henmi. So it was our intention to neutralise his impact. They have of course have more than one great player, they are all strong and with high technical experience, we had to fight hard to impose ourselves on the game. It’s normal that in a game like this it will be, at times, physical and hard-fought. We did restrict them to a few chances, but they were able to score two goals. Nevertheless, I am happy at the end of our achievements, it’s our first time at this stage and we will look to do even better in the future."

Bruno Garcia, Japan Head Coach: "I would like to congratulate Bahrain for the tournament, they were very successful. I have good feelings after this game, of course, because if you lose you go home at this stage. Each step is one closer to the title and each game is even more important and difficult. But today is already the past, now we are already focused on Iraq and the semi-final tomorrow. They are a good team not only in the semi-final of this competition, but they have reached semi-finals and finals in the AFC Futsal Club Championships. It’s, of course, very difficult to prepare a team for the next big game in a short time. We will focus on physical recovery for the players as the main priority. We have tried to simulate these kind of situations in training camps and in the qualifiers for this tournament, in Bangkok, we played three matches in three days, so we have some experience of this situation. We were aware of the tournament schedule ahead of time, so it’s something we are ready for."

Photos: AFC