Let's start with the result of the first semi-final Japan against Iran, a clear and convincing 3 : 0
At the beginning of this year's Asian Championships, not so many football fans would have bet their last shirt that the record champion from Japan would make it to the final again. The young team was on the verge of a radical transition, as demonstrated by the change of their coach after last year's World Cup. The new coach, Hajime Moriyasu, was now to accompany the Samurai Blue through the games of the 17th Asian Championships, and so far he had a lucky hand.
Japan managed five wins out of the five matches so far, although they haven't always been convincing. Until the semi-final, since every of their matches so far ended with a one-goal win, they barely outscored their opponents and head to fear and hope until the very last minutes were over. But that was enough to beat every other team so far and to make it to the semi-finals.
And there they went against Iran's team, which in turn played an impeccable tournament. Iran only had to share the points once in the preliminary round against Iraq, but a look at the goal difference revealed that this team was rightly one of the favourites at these championships. By the time they reached the semi-finals, the Iranian players had scored 12 goals and didn't have to concede a single goal. A great performance if it wasn't for yesterday's game.
Because the Japanese team wasn't impressed at all. Even though the Iranian side started the match vigorously hoping to pressure their opponents from the land of the rising sun, the Samurai Blue were able to withstand the pressure of their opponents and, for their part, repeatedly appeared unexpectedly in front of the Iranian goal after running quick attacks of their own.
In the second half, Iran took a little bit of the pace out of the game and suddenly the Japanese team had more room than before. After a free-kick, in the 56th minute the ball came to Yuya Osako, who did not miss the chance and shot in for the leading goal. 11 minutes later it was again the player of the German Bundesliga team Werder Bremen, who increased with a penalty kick to 2:0.
As for Iran, not much worked out in the offensive. Sardar Azmoun, who had scored four goals so far, was on his own as his offensive partner Mehdi Taremi was suspended for this match. A very much missed player in this so important game.
But probably the biggest compliment has to be made to the Japanese defence, which repeatedly threw itself against the Iranians' attacks and thus prevented possible chances at an early stage.
And since the Iranian team had to be more active after the conceding goals, the Japanese players had a lot of opportunities for counterattacking, which they repeatedly used.
When the Japanese fans who travelled with them already celebrated their team loudly and cheerfully on the ranks, Genki Haraguchi, who played for Hannover 96, managed to score the final score of 3-0. Before this match hardly anyone would have bet on this result.
But I'm happy for the Japanese team, which will now face the winner of the second semi-final between the hosts from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar in the final on Friday.
So once again, I will keep my fingers crossed to ensure that the Samurai Blue can continue to celebrate at the end of the tournament and hopefully win the Asian Cup for the fifth time.