Japan March Into Last Eight


A hat-trick from Shinji Okazaki helped Japan to a 5-0 thumping of Saudi Arabia to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup as Group B winners.

Jordan are also through to the last eight after coming from behind to beat local rivals Syria 2-1 in Qatar Monday.

Japan, who scrambled a 1-1 draw against Jordan in their opener, were always in command at Doha’s Al Rayyan Stadium against a Saudi Arabia side crashing to their third straight defeat.

The three-time champions were 3-0 up inside 20 minutes as Okazaki scored after eight minutes before doubling Japan’s lead soon afterwards with a diving header from Shinji Kagawa’s assist.

Ryoichi Maeda made it 3-0 when he converted Yuto Nagamoto’s cross in the 19th minute.

Saudi Arabia, who sacked Portuguese coach Jose Pereiro after their opening 2-1 defeat to Syria, did not improve after the break.

Uzbekistan are very strong. but it’s our ambition now to reach the semifinals
–Adnan Hamad
Maeda stretched Japan’s lead early in the second half with his second of the match before Okazaki completed his hat-trick with 10 minutes left.

Topping the group earns Japan a quarterfinal clash with hosts Qatar Friday.

Jordan, who needed a draw against neighbors Syria to go through, will play Uzbekistan for a place in the semifinals and their Iraqi coach Adnan Hamad is hopeful of progressing.

“Uzbekistan are very strong. We faced them in a friendly a few weeks ago and their coach told me that he wanted to meet us in the final.

“They are a strong and fast team, but it’s our ambition now to reach the semifinals,” he told AFP.

But his team fell a goal down at the Qatar Sports Club Stadium as Mohamed Al Zino scored after 15 minutes from close range.

Victory would have put Syria through, but Jordan soon leveled after poor defending.

Defender Ali Dyab jumped to clear Amer Deeb’s cross from the Syrian right and succeeding only in heading the ball over goalkeeper Mosab Balhous and into his own net.

Jordan’s winner was also the result of weak defending as striker Odai Al Shaify took advantage of hesitancy to fire past Balhous.

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