Japan crowned AFC U-23 champions
Doha: Substitute Takuma Asano came off the bench to score twice and earn Japan a dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 win over Korea Republic in the final of the AFC U23 Championship at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium on Saturday evening.
Kwon Chang-hoon and Jin Seong-uk gave Korea Republic a two-goal cushion by the second minute of the second half, but Asano’s introduction in the 60th minute turned the game in Japan’s favour with the Sanfrecce Hiroshima striker scoring either side of a goal by Shinya Yajima to seal the Japanese fight back.
The win means Japan will go to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August as Asian champions, where they will be joined by both Korea Republic and Iraq, winners ofFriday’sthird place play-off.
Both coaches were forced into making several changes, with Japan’s Makoto Teguramori switching four players, replacing Takumi Minamino, Musashi Suzuki, Tatsuki Nara and Riki Harakawa with Takuya Iwanami, Ryota Oshima, Onaiwu Ado and Yajima.
Shin Tae-yong, meanwhile, switched Hwang Hee-chan while Jin Seong-uk came into the starting line-up and Moon Chang-jin returned in favour of Hwang Ki-wook.
The Koreans had the ball in the net as early as the seventh minute after Ryu Seung-woo pushed his effort over the line after Moon Chang-jin’s shot from outside the area was pushed away by Japanese goalkeeper Masatoshi Kushibiki, only for the attempt to be ruled out for offside.
Fourteen minutes later, though, Shin’s side took the lead when Sim Sang-min’s cross from the Korean left was headed back across goal by Jin Seong-uk and Kwon Chang-hoon’s weak volley was deflected past Kushibiki via Takuya Iwanami’s left knee.
Jin Seong-uk fired his attempt over the bar nine minutes before the break as Korea Republic continued to dominate, but it took less than two minutes of second half for the Taeguk Warriors to double their lead when Jin beat Kushibiki with a low effort to his left.
The Koreans were cruising until the introduction of striker Asano with 30 minutes to go turned the game in Japan’s favour, with the 21-year-old man’s pace and presence unsettling Shin’s team.
Within seven minutesof coming on for Ryota Oshima, Asano had halved the deficit, clipping home a fine first-time effort as he latched on to Yajima’s perfectly weighted ball from midfield.
Seconds later, the Japanese were level and this time it was Yajima who was celebrating as his bullet header following Naomichi Ueda’s cross flew into the top corner, leaving Korean goalkeeper Kim Dong-jun rooted to the spot.
And with nine minutes remaining, Asano completed an unlikely comeback when the Korean defence dithered to allow Asano to spin past the last defender and meet Shoya Nakajima’s through ball before slotting beyond Kim Dong-jun.