Persianfootball.com – AL AIN, A second half blackout by the so far stellar and unbeaten Iranian defense, changed the fortunes for Iran, as they gifted Japan an easy goal early in second half. Team Melli should never recover, eventually losing 3-0 to Japan in semifinals of the Asian Cup.
Iran boss Carlos Queiroz only performed one change to his starting lineup, replacing the suspended and sorrowly missed Mehdi Taremi by Vahid Amiri, while Japan could welcome the eventual matchwinner Osako back in their starting lineup after injury woes.
The match was even in the first 45 minutes, with Japan dominating the proceedings mostly, but Iran having the better chances. First Sardar Azmoun only got the slightest touch to a long ball forward as his effort could be saved by Gonda. Then he missed the biggest chance of the match in first half, when perfectly creating himself space inside the box, but curling the ball wide from tight angle.
Japan only had two half-chances, but their midfield shut down the Iranians well, who too often send long balls forward to Azmoun, who was well guarded by Japan’s tall defenders Yoshida and Tomiyasu.
Huge collective blackout by Iran
Iran looked much more determined to break the deadlock in second half, controlling the game from restart on, but thereby taking much more risk in the high defending backline.
The technically gifted Japanese almost took advantage from it barely ten minutes into second half, when they won the ball in midfield thanks to their aggressive pressing play, combined well in attack against the unusually slow reacting Iranian midfield, and only Hossein Kanaanizadegan’s risky tackling could prevent Minamino’s break-through.
At least so it seemed, but what happened then was unpreceeded in Carlos Queiroz’s 100 match long reign of the national team.
No less than five Iranian players; Kanaani, Ramin Rezaeian, Omid Ebrahimi, Ehsan Hajsafi and Morteza Pouraliganji – the latter evem sprinting all the way from the center of the box back to the referee – started complaining about a possible dive, with the ball still in play. Minamino reacted quickly, sprinted after the ball, picked it up and crossed it to center, where Osako had brought himself in position whilst the Iranians tried to retain their formation, and easily headed the ball into the net from close range.
The collective blackout was followed by a harsh penalty call, as Pouraliganji slid into a cross, stopping the ball with an unintentional handplay. The Australian referee pointed to the penalty spot after short hesitation, was even called back to rewatch the scene on video, but held on to the decision.
Osako stepped up and converted, a scene from which Iran should never recover again.
Again, pressing by the Samurai Blue had forced a turnover, this time by Rezaeian, deep in Iran’s half, in the build-up of the penalty scene.
A great Alireza Jahanbakhsh freekick saved by the keeper was Iran’s last really dangerous scene, as Team Melli looked shocked and could never return to previous form again.
Japan remained dangerous on the counter, and added an injury time third through Haraguchi to seal an eventually well deserved win, due to Iran’s helpless display in second half.
With Carlos Queiroz’s announcement of his retirement in the post-match press conference, the defeat to Japan marked an unworthy ending to a great era of Iranian football.
Iran – Japan 0-3 (0-0)
Asian Cup 2019, semi final, Al Ain
0-1 Osako (56′)
0-2 Osako (67′ / penalty)
0-3 Haraguchi (90′)
Iran’s lineup: Beiranvand – Rezaeian, Pouraliganji, Kanaanizadegan, Mohammadi – Ebrahimi – Dejagah (71′ Ghoddos), Hajsafi – Jahanbakhsh (71′ Torabi), Amiri (58′ Ansarifard) – Azmoun
Iranian players booked: Vahid Amiri, Omid Ebrahimi, Sardar Azmoun