Japan make it to knockout stage
HCM CITY (VNS) — Defending champions Japan bounced back strongly from their unexpected 2-1 defeat by Uzbekistan two days ago to trounce Kyrgyzstan 4-0 in their last match in group ‘D' yesterday at Phu Tho Indoor Stadium in HCM City.
With two wins and one loss, Japan was in second place with six points. This qualified them for the knockout stage of the ongoing Asian Futsal Championships, where they meet Thailand, who topped group ‘C' following a draw with Lebanon.
"It's tough to play one of the title contenders in the quarter finals but we must enjoy it because we are champions," Japan's Spanish coach Miguel Rodrigo said in the post-match conference.
Akira Minamoto opened the scoring with a point-blank tap-in. Nibuya Kazuhiro doubled the lead when he pounced home the rebound following Kaoru's on-target shot. Osodo Nobuya made it 3-0 for the Japanese when he turned home Inaba Kotaro's pass.
With five minutes to go, from a quick attack, Kotaro raced down into an opening left by Kyrgyzstan before easily putting home his second goal.
Uzbekistan beat South Korea 3-0 to top group ‘D' with nine points from three wins and will take on Lebanon in the last eight.
In the previous match of the day, Karim Abou Zeid struck a late goal to help Lebanon earn a 3-3 draw against Thailand in their last match in group ‘C' and finished in second place with four points to secure a ticket to the last eight.
Mohamad Zeitoun opened the scoring in the first minute of the match with a point-blank tap-in. Thailand were denied goals by the posts two times and the crossbar once before Karim doubled the advantage for Lebanon.
Thailand reduced the gap to one goal just one minute into the second half through Kritsada Wongkaeo and Suphawut Thueanklang grabbed a double within six minutes to put Thais ahead for the first time.
But the match had not finished yet when Karim had the ball from the half line of the pitch and powered a shot into the roof of the net to send Lebanon's players and coaching staff into ecstasy.
Despite the draw, Thailand, who were runners-up last tournament after losing 6-1 to Japan in the final, still won the group with seven points after two wins and one draw.
"We did not start well and our players seemed to sleep for the opening minutes and conceded goals," Thailand's coach Victor Hermans said.
The Dutchman also complained about the referees and sarcastically suggested that the AFC should spend more money on improving the refereeing.
On the title candidates, Hermans said Iran was the most likely to win the competition.
Malaysia and Taipei return home with each winning one match. — VNS