Japan, Uzbekistan enter AFC U23 Asian Cup final and confirm Olympic berths

Indonesia and Iraq will fight for the last remaining Olympic football spot in the U23 Asian Cup bronze medal match.

Japan's Mao Hosoya, left, celebrates after scoring during an Under 23 Asian Cup semifinal against Iraq [Hussein Sayed/AP]

Japan and Uzbekistan will meet in the final of the AFC Under 23 Asian Cup 2024 in Qatar after securing 2-0 wins over Iraq and Indonesia in their respective semifinals.

Both countries have also secured their qualification for the Paris Olympics 2024 by reaching the final.

First-half goals from Mao Hosoya and Ryotaro Araki were enough to secure a comfortable win for Japan over Iraq in the second semifinal at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on Monday.

Hosoya put the 2016 champions in front in the 28th minute and Araki doubled the lead 14 minutes later during a commanding performance by Go Oiwa’s side, with captain Joel Fujita at the heart of a dominant display.

The Japanese will take on Timur Kapadze’s Uzbekistan in Friday’s final at the same venue.

The last remaining Olympic football slot from the Asian region will be decided in the bronze medal match between the two losing semifinalists Iraq and Indonesia on Thursday.

The Samurai Blue from the Far East were in fine form against their West Asian opponents in the second semifinal, with Fujita leading from the front.

The scoreline could have been different had Japan not been denied by Iraq’s goalkeeper Hussein Hasan on several occasions.

When play resumed at 2-0 after half-time, Ali Jasim looked determined to score as Iraq sought a way back into the game but was kept out by the Japanese defence.

Japan kept pressing through the second half but were unable to add to the scoreline.

Meanwhile, Uzbekistan ended Indonesia’s inspiring run at the tournament with yet another strong performance in their semifinal.

Khusayin Norchaev scored for the Central Asian nation to break the deadlock in the 68th minute and an own goal from Pratama Arhan four minutes from full-time sealed the football-mad South East Asian country’s fate.

They will still have another chance of qualifying for the Olympics when they meet Iraq in Thursday’s bronze medal match.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies