DOHA - Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima's penalty
shootout saves sent Japan into the Asian Cup final on Tuesday
after arch rivals South Korea had snatched a last-minute extra-time equaliser to force a 2-2 semi-final draw.
Three-times champions Japan, who won the shootout 3-0, will
play the winners of Tuesday's second semi-final between
Uzbekistan and Australia at the Khalifa Stadium in
Yasuyuki Konno scored the winning penalty on his 28th
birthday after Koo Ja-cheol and Lee Yong-rae had their efforts
saved by Kawashima, who had been criticised earlier in the
tournament for some errors, and Hong Jeong-ho blasted wide.
"I told him a few days ago (Kawashima) that I trusted him
and I told him again today and he did better than I even
expected," Japan's Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni told
The manner of the defeat proved too much for some Koreans
who were in tears moments after they celebrated a 120th minute
equaliser from Hwang Jae-won, who lashed home after a goalmouth
The east Asian rivals produced some of the best football of
the tournament in the first 45 minutes at the Al Gharafa Stadium
with Japan unlucky not to take the lead.
An eye-catching move in the 17th minute set Yuto Nagatomo
clear down the left and the full-back's cross found Shinji
Okazaki but his powerful header was deflected onto the inside of
the post by keeper Jung Sung-ryong who then gathered the ball.
Despite the Blue Samurai's fast start it was Korea who took
the lead five minutes later from the penalty spot in somewhat
Konno was judged to have blocked Korea captain Park Ji-sung
who, in his 100th international, was chasing a long ball into
the area which he did not look like getting. Ki Sung-yueng
tucked the spot-kick past Kawashima.
Japan did not let the decision affect them and they were
level after another superb attacking move down the left.
Playmaker Keisuke Honda cut out three Korean defenders with
a perfectly weighted through ball for Nagatomo and the full-back
squared a cross which Ryoichi Maeda lifted over Jung for his
third goal of the tournament.
The chances began to dry up in the second half with nerves
likely having an effect on the two young sides as the tempo
slowed with both teams switching to a more defensive style.
Extra-time looked to have provided a winner when Japanese
substitute Hajime Hosogai powered home the rebound after Jung
had saved Honda's poor penalty in the 97th minute.
Saudi Arabian referee Khalil Al Ghamdi had initially pointed
for a free-kick before awarding Japan a penalty after Korea
defender Hwang was judged to have obstructed forward Okazaki.
"I believe as human being referees can make mistakes, it was
strange when referee pointed to outside of area but assistant
pointed inside, but it is part of the game," Korean coach Cho
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