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Japan must choose wisely

 By John Duerden

Japan, Iran, Qatar keep Asian flag flying after Australia's heroics

A new-look Japan took the field on Friday night in Valid Halilhodzic's first game in charge, yet it was the old guard who came off the bench in Oita to secure a 2-0 win over Tunisia. It was a solid result and a satisfactory performance.

The Bosnian, who led Algeria to the last 16 at the 2014 World Cup, had promised to shake up a team that has looked in need of exactly that over the past few months. There were only two survivors from the 11 that started the last game, the quarterfinal of the 2015...

 By John Duerden

Japan must choose Aguirre's successor wisely to prove a point

Japan sacked Mexican coach Javier Aguirre on Tuesday due to his ongoing involvement in an investigation into match-fixing in Spain.

Back in 2005, Saburo Kawabuchi, then the president of the Japan Football Association (JFA), pledged that there would be a World Cup win by 2050. Given the strides that have been taken in the past 30 years in the country, it is certainly not impossible that the trophy could end up in Tokyo before the 21st century passes the halfway mark. But while a long-term goal is good to have, there are always going to be twists and setbacks to be dealt with along the way.

This is such a time. JFA House sits on...

Aguirre situation a difficult one to watch

The Japan Football Association (JFA) confirm on Tuesday that coach Javier Aguirre has been sacked over match-fixing allegations.

I would like to do it. I was tempted, I controlled myself, sat on my hands, held my breath and closed my eyes. I want stick my neck out for him. I'm tempted to do it. I want to but can't. I can but don't want to. It's a tricky situation.

There are two things at stake here. The most important thing is his credibility as a person, as a man, and as a father. But also a powered reputation earned on the field as a soccer player and coach and a situation where he could even be put in jail.

My perception...

 By John Duerden

Man United, Dortmund and Japan all responsible in the decline of Kagawa

As he sank to his knees on the Sydney turf following his missed penalty for Japan against the United Arab Emirates in the quarterfinal of the 2015 Asian Cup, Shinji Kagawa's face wore a look of confusion and anguish. Japan had dominated but had been eliminated.

For the player, it goes a little deeper than that. The Samurai Blue had won the tournament four years ago but Kagawa left at the semifinal stage thanks to a broken metatarsal. This time, he played until the bitter end but exited even earlier.


UAE's Asian Cup quarterfinal upset of Japan one for the ages

You never want to see the defending champions exit a tournament quietly, and for Japan, the side that has won four of the last six Asian Cups, this was a departure fitting their stature.

Were it not for the incredible Iran/Iraq quarterfinal that finished just seconds before this game, this remarkable clash in Sydney would have easily ranked as the tournament's most dramatic match.

How Japan, almost unbackable favourites, contrived to not win this encounter is the stuff of legend.

How Japan contrived to not win their Asian Cup quarterfinal against the UAE in Canberra is the stuff of legend.

Mustering just...

UAE keep Japan superstars quiet in historic Asian Cup quarterfinal upset

Striker Ali Mabkhout gave UAE a surprise lead against champions Japan in the seventh minute of the Asian Cup quarterfinal.

It was a day of upsets as four-time champions Japan followed three-time winners Iran out of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, both losing their quarterfinals on penalties.

After Iraq eliminated Iran in Canberra, United Arab Emirates knocked out Javier Aguirre's Samurai Blue 5-4 in Sydney with the game locked at 1-1 after regular and extra time.

United Arab EmiratesUnited Arab Emirates
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Here are three points from the game at Stadium Australia:

1. UAE cap off stunning day

When Iraq took the lead twice in extra time against Asia's highest ranked team...