Japan, Iran reach Asian Cup semis

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/F/Football.jpg' class='caption'> Japan and Iran have reached the semi finals of the Asian Cup. Iran face hosts China and Japan take on Bahrain in next Tuesday's semi-finals.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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Chongqing, Jinan:

Defending champions Japan were up against a feisty Jordanian eleven in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup 2004 in Chongqing, China on Saturday. Jordan came into the game with the reputation of not having conceded a goal in the tournament, but their defence was to be tested by Japan's attacking flair. The holders were shocked as early as the 11th minute. Hard-working midfielder Khaled Sa'ed surprised the Japanese back four and sent a measured cross to Mehmoud Shelbaeih, whose firm header opened the scoring. Slice of luck Japanese goalkeeper Yoshi Kawaguchi conceded only his second goal of the tournament. Japan equalised soon enough, but needed a slice of luck. Jordanian goalkeeper Amer Shafi did not cleanly gather a free kick taken by Nakamura. As the ball slipped away, Takayoki Suzuki was on hand to equalise with 13 minutes played. Jordan enjoyed the larger share of possession in the first half and looked equally dangerous in the second. However, both teams failed to break the deadlock despite the extra time and the match went to penalties. Japan took the first spot kick and Nakamura's shot could hardly have been worse if he tried. Then, Jordan captain Abu Zema converted his spot kick to put his team one up in the shoot-out. Brazilian-born Alex Santos took the second for Japan and he too wasted his opportunity. After two successive misses, Japan's team management complained to the referee about some loose turf adjacent to the penalty spot. After consulting his officials, Malaysian referee Mohammad Saleh dramatically changed goal for the rest of the penalties - much to the frustration of the Jordanians. More drama The shoot-out resumed with further drama still to come. Jordan, still with the lead from the other end, only needed Shboul to convert with this kick to go through to the last four. He struck it well enough, but Kawaguchi got a hand to it and the ball came back off the crossbar. The dismay of Jordan's King Abdullah, watching from the sidelines, was plain for all to see and sudden death penalties followed. After the change of ends, four of their five kicks were converted by Japan, while Jordan could only convert one. This effort from Bashar Bani Yassan hit the post and the Japanese team, led by their goalkeeper Kawaguchi, celebrated. The final score was 4-3 on penalties. South Korea flounders Pre-tournament favourites South Korea, playing here in the red shirts, took on Iran in the tournament's fourth quarter-final at the Shandong Sports Centre in Jinan. Three-time champions Iran, with lots experience to boast, drew first blood. In the 11th minute, Hossein Kaebi hooked a cross into the box and Ali Karimi calmly nodded the ball into the back of the net for the opening goal. Four minutes later, Korea equalised. Seol Ki-Hyeon was left unmarked inside the box and the striker slotted in from close range to make it 1-1. Iran pressed on and regained the lead in the 19th minute. Mehdi Mahdavikia sent in a near-perfect cross from the right and Ali Karimi once again beat the Korean defence with a powerful header. It was Karimi's second goal of the match and his third of the tournament. Korea struck back immediately. Kim Nam Il's cross after a throw-in from the left took a deflection off an Iranian defender and Lee Dong Gook only had to stick out a boot to knock the ball into the back of the net. 2-2 after just 25 minutes. Second half The see-saw battle continued in the second half as Iran took the lead for the third time in the 51st minute. Midfielder Mehdi Mahdavikia outran the Korean defence and crossed from the right. With the goalkeeper beaten, Park Jin-sub could only divert the ball into his own net - agony for the defender. Korea drew level once again in the 67th minute. Kim Nam Il was given too much space on the edge of the Iranian box and his shot took a bad bounce in front of Iran goalkeeper Mirzapour and hopped into the back of the net. 3-3, but the game was not over yet. Iran went ahead for the fourth time when Ali Karimi completed his hattrick in the 76th minute. A free kick from the left ended with Ali Karimi's near post flick beating Korean skipper Lee Won Jae. Ali Karimi's effort completed the first hattrick of the tournament. Former champions Iran will now meet hosts China, while defending champions Japan take on newcomers Bahrain in the semi-finals on Tuesday. (AP)

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