Yoshida calls for Japan to finish job at Asian Cup

AL-AIN, United Arab Emirates (AFP) – Japan captain Maya Yoshida sounded the battle cry after the Blue Samurai tore Iran to shreds to reach the Asian Cup final.

After celebrating Monday’s 3-0 victory over the tournament favourites in Al-Ain, Yoshida called for the Japanese to complete the job against either Qatar or host United Arab Emirates as they chase a record-extending fifth title.

“We can’t be satisfied with beating Iran,” said the Southampton defender after a tempestuous semi-final, effectively decided by Yuya Osako’s controversial second-half double.

“We still have another game that we must win. If we lose that, all the hard work will have been for nothing so we need to finish it.

“We talked about going to war before we came out here,” added Yoshida, who needed to be restrained by his teammates in a late flashpoint after reacting furiously to Iran striker Sardar Azmoun.

Japan’s forward Yuya Osako (R) celebrates his goal during the 2019 AFC Asian Cup semi-final football match between Iran and Japan at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Monday. – AFP

“We have come together as a strong unit and we need to keep fighting as a team.”

Yoshida admitted he had calmed down just in time to avoid seeing red.

“If I’d got myself sent off and missed the final it would have been terrible,” he said.

“What’s important is to enjoy the ride and hopefully we can keep improving. We want to make sure we win the final and be Asian champions again.”

Osako headed a bizarre opener from Takumi Minamino’s cross in Monday’s semi-final with five Iran players busy gesticulating to the referee for him to book Minamino for a dive.

The Werder Bremen striker smashed home his second from the penalty spot after the ball struck the unfortunate Morteza Pouraliganji’s arm as he slid in to tackle, knocking the stuffing out of Iran’s players.

Genki Haraguchi added a stoppage-time third to add insult to injury for Iran.

“I’ve had my problems with injuries so that was a little payback – to get out the frustration,” said Osako.

“We’ve played our best football in the biggest game of the Asian Cup.”

Japan captured the last of their four Asian Cups in 2011 and have never lost a final.

Hajime Moriyasu’s new-look side have hardly set the world alight, but given Japan’s pedigree in the competition they will now be favourites to win Friday’s final in Abu Dhabi.