Asian Cup 2019

Wasteful Japan squeeze through, Qatar hit N. Korea for 6

Japan's forward Takumi Minamino evading the attentions of Oman's Khalid Al-Braiki during their Group F game at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Japan won 1-0.
Japan's forward Takumi Minamino evading the attentions of Oman's Khalid Al-Braiki during their Group F game at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Japan won 1-0.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ABU DHABI • Genki Haraguchi smashed home a controversial penalty, as former champions Japan scraped a 1-0 Group F win over Oman to book their place in the last 16 of the Asian Cup yesterday.

Earlier, Almoez Ali plundered a record-equalling four goals for Qatar as the 2022 World Cup hosts hit North Korea for six unanswered goals to progress from Group E.

Japan, who have scooped Asian football's biggest prize on four occasions, enjoyed their share of good fortune in Abu Dhabi.

Haraguchi clipped the crossbar after just two minutes before fellow forward Takumi Minamino fluffed a handful of golden opportunities. The Samurai Blue's profligacy almost came back to haunt them as Oman flooded forward, with Muhsen Al-Ghassani shaving the post from an acute angle.

However, Haraguchi settled Japan's nerves in the 28th minute, converting from the spot after he had appeared to go down easily under minimal contact from Oman captain Ahmed Al-Mahaijri.

The opposition had extra reason to feel aggrieved, when their own penalty claims were waved away just before half-time after defender Yuto Nagatomo looked to have handled a Salaah Al-Yahyaei drive.

Despite reaching the knockout stages of last year's World Cup, Japan's Asian Cup campaign has not been entirely convincing so far - they squeaked past Turkmenistan 3-2 in their opener - and were again poor on the night.

But despite a late scare when Raed Saleh's acrobatic late volley flashed wide, Japan remain unbeaten in seven matches since Hajime Moriyasu took charge and have now reached the knockout phase of the Asian Cup for the eighth consecutive time.

In the earlier game, Qatar's romp over North Korea was played in almost eerie silence in front of barely 300 spectators in Al Ain.

The Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium was virtually empty due to the Gulf blockade, with Qataris largely prohibited from entering the United Arab Emirates after Doha was accused of supporting terrorism in June 2017.

The win also confirmed Saudi Arabia's progression from Group E, with both teams on six points after two games.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ASIAN CUP

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2019, with the headline 'Wasteful Japan squeeze through, Qatar hit N. Korea for 6'. Print Edition | Subscribe