Japan’s Asian Cup run comes to an end with loss to Iran

Japan’s Asian Cup run comes to an end with loss to Iran

Japan’s quest for a fifth AFC Asian Cup crown has come to an end. The Samurai Blue were defeated by Iran, 2-1, sending Japan out in the quarter-finals of the continental championship.

Hidemasa Morita gave Japan the lead before the half-hour mark with a brilliant solo effort. He picked up the ball at 35 yards, darted between three Iran defenders before making his way into the box and finding the back of the net for the game’s opening goal.

Japan had the bulk of possession, but Iran proved dangerous when they got their chances as their physicality caused the Samurai Blue problems. They nearly scored just after halftime on a quick counter, but Zion Suzuki made a good save to keep Japan in front.

Iran equalized in the 55th minute as Team Melli won another 50/50 ball in the midfield to begin a pretty move that eventually played Mohammad Mohebbi in on goal for a clever finish.

Japan had chances to reclaim the lead, with Morita just missing a good chance and the introduction of Kaoru Mitoma presenting constant danger in transition, but the Samurai Blue just couldn’t find the back of the net.

It looked like the match would go to extra time, but Iran found a way through in stoppage time when Ko Itakura and Takehiro Tomiyasu failed to clear a high ball. Once the ball found the ground, Itakura went to ground to win it, but committed a foul in the process. The referee pointed to the spot and Alireza Jahanbakhsh buried his penalty to deliver Team Melli the win six minutes into stoppage time.

It was a heartbreaking end to the tournament for Japan, but they did make a brave run to the final eight and gave full effort every step of the way.

While the quest for a fifth Asian Cup will have to wait another four years, the best football for this young and growing team is yet to come, and there is no doubt that the Samurai Blue’s future is very bright with this team made entirely in the J.League.