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HOME > National Teams > U-23 2024 > AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™ TOP > NEWS > 【Match Report】U-23 Japan National Team book their ticket to the Paris Olympics with victory over Iraq in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™ semi-final


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【Match Report】U-23 Japan National Team book their ticket to the Paris Olympics with victory over Iraq in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™ semi-final

30 April 2024

【Match Report】U-23 Japan National Team book their ticket to the Paris Olympics with victory over Iraq in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™ semi-final

The U-23 Japan National Team faced the U-23 Iraq National Team in the semi-finals of the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™ at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium on Monday 29 April.

Head coach OIWA Go has rotated his squad for every match so far, but with the team playing on three days' rest for the first time in the tournament, only two changes were made to the quarterfinal line-up.

KOKUBO Leo Brian (SL Benfica) started in goal behind a backline of SEKINE Hiroki (Kashiwa Reysol), TAKAI Kota (Kawasaki Frontale), KIMURA Seiji (Sagan Tosu), and OHATA Ayumu (Urawa Red Diamonds). FUJITA Joel Chima (Sint-Truidense VV), MATSUKI Kuryu (FC Tokyo), and ARAKI Ryotaro (FC Tokyo) were placed in midfield while HIRAKAWA Yu (FC Machida Zelvia) and YAMADA Fuki (Tokyo Verdy) were deployed on the flanks with HOSOYA Mao (Kashiwa Reysol) playing as a central striker.

In a match where victory would qualify them for the Olympics, Japan took the initiative from the outset, pinning Iraq back in their own half. “There was little pressure,” said captain Fujita, because if they lost in the semi-final they would get another chance in the third-place play-off, unlike in the quarter-final where defeat would have meant immediate elimination.

In the 10th minute, Araki collected Fujita's pass and sent a through ball to Hosoya, who broke into the box and unleashed a shot that was saved by the goalkeeper.

Japan opened the scoring in the 28th minute when Fujita's lofted pass behind the Iraqi backline found Hosoya, who made a superb turn before slotting the ball into the far corner to give Japan the lead, as the striker later reflected, “I'm getting my goalscoring instincts back.”

With the momentum in their favour, Japan added a second in the 43rd minute when Ohata's pass from the left flank found Fujita, who redirected the ball into the box for Araki to finish a one-on-one with the goalkeeper, as the midfielder recalled, “I made a conscious effort to set up the shot with my first touch.”

Iraq fought back strongly in the second half, but Japan, led by goalkeeper Kokubo, held on to win 2-0 and qualify for the Olympics.

The team will now face Uzbekistan in the final on Friday 3 May.

Coach's and Players' Comments

OIWA Go, Head Coach of U-23 Japan National Team
From the first half, the players fought with confidence, communicating what we needed to do and what we needed to aim for. I think the fact that we were able to share and fight as a team, rather than someone doing it alone, led to good offence and defence. It really showed what we had built-up leading to this point. Our opponents played five at the back today, but the approach of baiting them on the flanks to attack in the middle is one we have always used, and the players executed it very well. I hope we can add more variations to our game.

DF #21 OHATA Ayumu (Urawa Red Diamonds)
After the win over Qatar, we had a meeting with just the players to get our minds right. As a result, we went into the game well prepared and played well from the first half. The fact that we were able to make quick transitions to win the ball back after losing possession was really good. We knew we couldn't afford to play passively, so we fought with the determination to win every tackle. I think everyone was on the same page in that respect.

MF #8 FUJITA Joel Chima (Sint-Truidense VV/Belgium)
Qualifying for the Olympics was our minimum goal, so I am relieved that we have achieved that, but we still have one more game to play, so hopefully we can keep our focus on winning the title. Iraq tended to leave space open when they pressed the ball and there were times when we took advantage of that. However, there were also times when we made simple mistakes that allowed our opponents to create close chances, so that is an aspect we need to improve on. The fact that I was able to contribute to our goals gives me a lot of confidence going forward and I hope to continue to get results.

FW #13 ARAKI Ryotaro (FC Tokyo)
We were able to move the ball around at a good pace and I felt we were in full control of the game in the first half. When I scored, I just concentrated on my first touch to set up my shot and after that I just had to keep my composure to put the ball in the net. I trusted Fujita to make that final pass. I was determined to contribute to the team, and I feel I did my job with the chances I created and the goal I scored.

MIYAMOTO Tsuneyasu, JFA President
I would like to pay tribute to the efforts of the coaches, staff, players and everyone else involved in qualifying for an eighth consecutive Olympic Games. I would also like to thank all the clubs for sending their players despite the tournament not being played during FIFA Match Days. The semi-final against Iraq was a game that reminded us that a team is a living organism, as the team really showed their growth throughout the tournament. We hope that this momentum will carry over into the final.

YouTube(AFC):#AFCU23 | S-Final : Japan 2 - 0 Iraq

AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™

Tournament dates: Mon. 15 April - Fri. 3 May 2024

Group stage
1st match: Tue. 16 April, ◯1-0 vs China PR
2nd match: Sat. 20 April, ◯2-0 vs UAE
3rd match: Mon. 22 April, ●0-1 vs Korea Republic

Knockout stage
Quarterfinals: Thu. 25 April, ◯4-2 vs Qatar
Semi-finals: Tue. 30 April, ◯2-0 vs Iraq
Final: Sat. 4 May, 0:30 vs Uzbekistan
*Kick-off time listed in Japan time

Tournament information

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