If the other three Quarter Finals can live up to the excitement and quality of the first then we are in for a treat. Five goals, some great football, excitement around the stadium, such a shame that in the end someone had to lose.
The hosts and underdogs had a great start and forced a good save from Eiji Kawashima, forward Sebastian Soria had his shot blocked however it fell to Mesaad Ali and his powerful effort forced the Japanese keeper to make a fine save. A great start from Bruno Metsu’s side and the home fans had the atmosphere jumping.
It was Ali again who test Kawashima only seconds later; his long range 25 yard strike was heading into the top corner but the keeper but fantastically to stretch out his right hand to push the ball over the top. Great start from Qatar putting the Blue Samurai under early pressure, and it was to pay dividends.
A hopeful ball was played over the top by the right back; Soria was played onside but the smallest of margins. Soria was quickly on to the ball he then cut back inside in front of Yoshida fires his shot to the near post and Kawashima was slow to react and the ball flashed past him, wonderful scenes as the team and fans went crazy.
After the quick start from the home side Japan then came into the game and for 10-15 minutes they were much the better team, plenty of the ball but they didn’t trouble Qasem Burhan most of the play was on the edge of Qatar’s penalty area. That was until Keisuke Honda came to life.
Kagawa tapped the ball to Honda, the CSKA Moscow forward then played a delightfully dinked pass over the defence looking for Shinji Okazaki, the striker tried to loop it over Burhan, Kagawa had continued his run forward and was there to apply the finishing touch with his head.
The second half started very evenly and it was Japan who made the first chance. Yuto Nagatomo played in a lovely first time cross. Okazaki lost his man with a great run across the front, but could only watch his header flash past the far post, a great chance.
Five minute later and probably one of the worst referee decisions of the whole tournament, already on a yellow card Japanese centre back Yoshida got into a tangle with Yusef Ahemd, nothing more than a coming together of legs. Referee Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh saw it differently and gave Yoshida his second yellow and sent him packing. It was about to get worse.
From the resulting free kick it was Fabio Cesar, just on as a sub to try and test Kawashima. A test that the keeper failed, Cesar’s left foot shot was drilled low towards the near post, flew past everyone and Kawashima again reacted slowly and it squeezed in past the near post. Qatar again had the lead.
Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa would not let Japan lie down though, and they combined for the equaliser. Honda played the pass, Kagawa controlled it superbly on his chest and turned past the defender he then showed amazing composure to tuck his finish past Burhan. Would Qatar have enough in their tank to take the lead for a third time?
One player that really impressed in the hosts side was Sebastian Soria after his shocking miss in the game against China he has really picked up his game, not just the goal in this match but his running off the ball some nice touches and he looks a strong player. One to watch definitely.
Unfortunately for the watching home support the quality of the Japanese came to the fore. Makoto Hasebe played a wonderful pass through the defence and found Kagawa onside, the Dortmund attacker then held off two Qatari challenges, probably could have been given a penalty, the ball then deflected off the keeper and it fell to right back Masahiko Inoha and he wasn’t going to miss, silence filled the stadium as Japan had scored the winner in the 90th minute.
An absolutely superb game to watch, both teams having a go, no thoughts of sitting back. Just the type of game you want from your Quarter-Finals.
Bruno Metsu in defeat was obviously very proud of his players.
“We played very well against Japan. We frightened them and we were very skilful in the match,” said the Frenchman.
“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.
“We have shown the whole world that Qatar is a strong team. We showed that we can play good football, although we still made mistakes and we conceded goals because of these mistakes.”
Alberto Zaccheroni was delighted with his team’s desire to attack even down to ten men.
“After we lost a man we still had more possession,” said the Italian.
“It was a great comeback and I could see the good mentality from our players.
“Eventually Inoha grabbed the winner and that shows what Japanese football is all about.
“Even though we were a man down, normally teams think about defence but we didn’t, we had the bravery to keep attacking and eventually we won the match.”
Japan through to the Semi-Finals and will be a difficult team to beat after this inspired comeback performance. However the watching teams will have seen they are not as strong defensively as they are going forward.