DOHA: Japan will meet Uzbekistan in the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™ final after first half goals from Mao Hosoya and Ryotaro Araki earned Go Oiwa’s side a 2-0 win over Iraq at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium that also sealed the nation’s spot at the Olympic Games in Paris.

Hosoya put the 2016 champions in front in the 28th minute and Araki doubled the lead 14 minutes later during a commanding performance by Oiwa’s side, with captain Joel Fujita at the heart of a dominant display.

The Japanese will take on Timur Kapadze’s Uzbekistan on Friday to decide this year’s champions while Iraq will meet Indonesia 24 hours earlier to determine who will secure Asia’s third guaranteed berth at the Olympics.

Oiwa’s team put on their finest performance of the tournament to secure their nation’s second appearance in the AFC U23 Asian Cup final, with Fujita to the fore and the Iraqis unable to handle the quality of their opponents’ movement and passing.

Hosoya was denied as early as the 10th minute, Iraqi goalkeeper Hussein Hasan redirecting the Kashiwa Reysol striker’s goal-bound shot after he latched onto Araki’s well-weighted through ball.

That was to prove a sign of what lay ahead even if, moments later, Leo Kokubo was called into action, diving at full stretch to his right to collect Ali Jasim’s attempt to strike into the bottom corner.
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Japan were steadily exerting control and, as the game approached the half hour mark, Oiwa’s outfit went ahead.

Fujita’s ball down the middle was exquisitely controlled by Hosoya with his first touch, the striker then turning, with Zaid Tahseen on his back, to show great balance and roll his right-foot shot into the corner beyond the diving Hasan.

The second came with three minutes remaining in the half, and it was Fujita who was again at the heart of the move. Ayumu Ohata used his body strength to spin past Ali Basim and cut inside to feed Fujita, whose first time through ball was stroked home by a gleeful Araki.

Jasim threatened in the seconds after the restart as Iraq sought a way back into the game, but before long the Japanese were pushing for their third.

Hasan kept out Matsuki’s effort from the edge of the area while Fuki Yamada’s close range flick was blocked by the keeper before Hosoya pulled his strike wide in a rapid sequence of near-misses for the enterprising Young Samurai Blue.

Hosoya rattled the woodwork with a header midway through the second half while Blnd Hassan’s shot thumped against the post in a rare sight of goal for the Iraqis, but Japan closed out the game in convincing style to seal their spot in the final and in Paris.