Saudi Arabia prevail over Japan in a five goal thrilling Asian Cup semi-final.
Down, and out. Japan leave the My Dinh National
Ivica Osim, Japan coach, admitted that his Asian Cup tactics of “beautiful football” didn’t work in the semi-final clash against Saudi Arabia, as the defending champions crashed out to their similarly credentialed opponents.
Between them, Saudi Arabia and Japan have won the past six Asian Cup titles, with three apiece and both sides going back-to-back, Saudi Arabia in 1984 and 1988, and Japan in 2000 and 2004.
However after their impressive 3-2 semi-final win in Hanoi, only the Saudis have the chance to go on and win a record fourth Asian Cup title when they take on surprise packets Iraq in the final in Jakarta on Sunday.
Japan, one of the most favoured sides to take out the tournament, conceded three goals in their loss, but Saburo Kawabuchi, Japan Football Association president, vowed to stick with Osim through the qualification stages for the 2010 World Cup finals.
“I took a risk in pitting our two stoppers against the opposite side’s two top forwards all along,” Osim said of his tactics.
“If I avoided the risk and put a libero (sweeper) to have three stoppers against the two forwards, we would have lost our numerical advantage in midfield.”
The Bosnian coach explained that his theory of a more packed midfield would allow a “playmaker or a beautiful player” to come forth.
“Wasn’t it more attractive the way we played? It makes the game more open and shows beautiful football that way,” said Osim, who led the former Yugoslavia to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals.
“Unfortunately, we lack something and you know what was missing,” he added, alluding to the tiredness of his squad, and especially the key players.
Taking their chances
Malek Maaz, Saudi forward, scored an impressive double, with ubiquitous strike partner Yasser “Sniper” Al Qahtani also scoring.
Yuji Nakazawa and Yuki Abe, Japan’s central defenders, headed in goals from corners, while Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura, the Scottish Player of the Year, and Frankfurt striker Naohiro Takahara failed to fire.
“I don’t think Japan were inferior in capability. We had far more chances but the luck was on the other side,” Osim said.
“They scored goals on all three chances when our concentration lapsed.”
Kawabuchi, the FA chief, added: “We pursued our own way of football and gave up three goals by chance. We tried to pull them back and fought to the end. I would buy that.
“We are moving forward smoothly in building up a team and I appreciate that.”
Japan now play Korea Republic in Palembang on Saturday in a clash for third place and automatic qualification for the next Asian Cup in 2011.