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|Wednesday, October 25, 2000, updated at 10:24(GMT+8)|
Japan, Saudi Book Final Berths in Semi-finalsHot-headed Japan and defending champions Saudi Arabia Tuesday went through into the semi-finals of the Asian Cup soccer tournament here as three places of the last four were occupied by teams from the East Asia.
Iraq put up little trouble against Japan in a 4-1 loss in the afternoon and Saudi Arabia saw off Kuwait 3-2 in extra time in a coaster-and-roster Gulf derby late of the night.
Japan, South Korea and China turned the table around compared to that of the last version of the tournament when no teams from the East of the continent entering the semi-finals.
After one day off tomorrow, South Korea will meet Saudi Arabia on Thursday afternoon in the Sports City stadium in Beirut, followed by match between China and Japan.
"Now we are in the progress to the World Cup finals," said Japan's coach Philippe Troussier. "The victory in the Asian Cup is very important to the Japanese team."
However it was Iraq who entered the game first and took the lead in just three minutes into the game on Abbas Obeid Jassim's goal, before the Japanese reversed the lead with two goals in four minutes.
Midfielder Hiroshi Nanami leveled the scoreline with a volley kick in the seventh minute after Shunsuke Nakamura squared a free-kick across the edge of the box for the Jubilo Iwata star.
Again Nakamura, who comes from the Cerozo Osaka of the J-League, capitalized Abdul Jabar Hashim's mistake in the front, driving into Iraq's defence to set up Naohiro Takahara to slide his fifth goal of the tournament.
"Actually I was not worried when Iraq scored the first goal," Troussier added.
Nanami scored his second goal of the game in the 29th minute to make it 3-1 for Japan, who had never beaten Iraq in any major tournaments before the win, while Tomokazu Myojin sealed the win with a 62nd-minute shot.
Japan have scored 17 goals and surrendered four in four games since the first round.
"Japan are better team than us. It's impossible for us to beat them," Iraq's coach Milan Zivadinovic confessed.
A sensational 108th-minute strike by Nawaf Al-Temyat sent the Saudis through in a frenetic match-up.
After a mistake-bounded first half, Saudi broke the mark one minute after the break on Al-Temyat's first goal.
But Kuwait's skipper Osama Husain cut through the defence before passing the ball to Bashar Abdullah to tie the game in one hour. Seven minute later, Naser Alsohi was found alone in the penalty area and his shot from the close range put Kuwait ahead.
Another three minutes past, and Talal Al-Meshal forced the match into extra time with his finish of a series of dazzling passes in Kuwait's box in the 70th minute.
The came the marvellous 25-yard golden goal, which is the third in the history of the Asian Cup, which sent the Saudis into ecstasy.
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