Japan, Uzbeks roar into last four
© AFP

Three-time winners Japan sealed their place in the last four after coming from behind two times to edge out hosts Qatar 3-2 on Friday in an epic opening contest of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals. In the later match, Uzbekistan made history by qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Jordan.

Japan’s triumph set the stage for a semi-final showdown in four days' time with either Iran or Korea Republic, while Uzbekistan will do battle with the winners between Australia and Iraq for a coveted place in the final. 

The match
Japan 3-2 Qatar, Al Gharafa Stadium, Doha
29’, 71’, Shinji Kagawa, 90’ Masahiko Inoha; 13’ Sebastian Soria, 63’ Fabio Cesar Montezine
Despite heaping pre-match praise on their rivals by dubbing Japan Asia's Barcelona, coach Bruno Metsu and his side showed their intent to win as they flew into attack early on. The hosts got off to a good start when Sebastian Soria surged into the area from the right, bamboozling Maya Yoshida before burying his left-footed strike into the net. Conceding the goal stirred Japan into action and they equalised 15 minutes later, Shinji Okazaki lobbing the ball over the goalkeeper for Kagawa to head into an unguarded net.

Qatar restored their lead on the hour-mark courtesy of a sublimely-taken free-kick by Fabio Cesar Montezine after Japan were reduced to ten men following Yoshida's dismissal. Just as the hosts looked on course to produce the tournament's biggest upset so far, Kagawa came to Japan’s rescue firing his second for the equaliser before cutting into area to set up Inoha for the match-winner.

The surprise
Uzbekistan 2-1 Jordan, Khalifa Stadium, Doha  
46’, 49’ Ulugbek Bakaev; 58’ Bashar Bani Yaseen
The opening half was evenly contested with Jordan taking the game to their fancied rivals, while Uzbekistan struggled to find their feet. With the battle largely taking place in the midfield, both sides were reduced to lofting in long balls and scoring chances were few and far between. The tide turned shortly after the interval with Bakaev completing a brace inside three minutes to give Uzbekistan a 2-0 lead. The midfielder first wriggled free of his marker to direct Server Djeparov's free-kick home before firing past Jordan keeper Amer Shafia. After Yaseen pulled one back, the West Asians threw everything forward for an equaliser, but the Central Asians did what they needed to do to turn their slender advantage into victory.  

The star
Shinji Kagawa, Japan
Having scored eight times in 17 appearances with Borussia Dortmund since joining last August, the 21-year-old lived up to his pre-tournament billing as an emerging star, almost single-handedly saving Japan’s blushes with two goals.

The stat
2
–The first two quarter-finals yielded two braces with Kagawa and Bakaev each scoring twice to help their respective sides through.

Memorable moments
Set-piece specialist
Having impressed by converting a free-kick to seal a 3-0 victory over Kuwait,  Qatar midfielder Montezine once again showed a glimpse of his talent when the second-half substitute caught out Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima with a sublimely-taken free-kick for their second goal.

Bloody Yaseen
Minutes before the break, Jordan captain Bashar Bani Yaseen clashed heavily with Sanzhar Tursunov, the Uzbekistan midfielder knocking out some teeth. With his mouth bleeding severely, Yaseen returned to the pitch shortly after a brief treatment, earning warm applause from the impressed supporters.

What they said
“We made a great comeback and I could see the strong mentality of our players. Even though we were a man down, we had the courage to keep attacking and eventually we won the game,” Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni.

“We played very well against Japan. We frightened them and we were very skilful in the contest. Not many teams could play so well against a good team like Japan and I think we should applaud the Qatari team for a very good technical performance. I am happy with our display, we lost but we lost with pride,” Qatar coach Bruno Metsu.