Japan’s “Young Samurai” entered the knockout tournament of the AFC Under-23 Championship in good form on Monday with a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia in the third and final group stage game.
With a first-place group finish already in hand, head coach Makoto Teguramori fielded an experimental lineup with 10 changes from Japan’s 4-0 win over Thailand last Saturday.
Kawasaki Frontale midfielder Ryota Oshima was handed the captain’s armband and opened the scoring with a shot from distance in the 32nd minute.
Gamba Osaka winger Yosuke Ideguchi doubled Japan’s lead in the 53rd minute with a goal of his own.
This turned out to be the crucial goal of the match after Abdullah Madu’s penalty brought the West Asian side to within reach of a draw.
Japan’s flawless Group B campaign will see them face Group A runners-up Iran in Friday’s quarter-final.
There, they will battle for a spot in the semi-finals and a chance to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics on the line.