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HomeSportJapan and Uzbekistan qualify for men's Olympic football by reaching U23 Asian...

Japan and Uzbekistan qualify for men’s Olympic football by reaching U23 Asian Cup final

AP Photo/Hussein Sayed
Japanese players pose for a photo after the U-23 Asian Cup semi-final between Iraq and Japan in Doha, Qatar, on Monday, April 29, 2024.

Uzbekistan qualified for men’s Olympic football after years of near misses by reaching the final of the Under-23 Asian Cup.

The Uzbeks defeated Indonesia 2-0 in the semi-finals in Doha, Qatar on Monday and will face Japan for the title on Friday.

Japan secured an eighth consecutive Olympic appearance with a 2-0 win over Iraq.

The top three teams automatically qualify for the Paris Games, and Iraq and Indonesia will meet in the play-off on Thursday to determine the remaining places.

Uzbekistan has gone through an unhappy period. It won the biennial Asian tournament in the non-Olympic years 2018 and 2022. In 2020, the team finished fourth and missed out on the Tokyo Games after losing the play-off to Australia.

This time there was no heartbreak. After Indonesia found the back of the net but had a goal disallowed for offside, Khusain Norchaev scored midway through the second half to put Uzbekistan ahead.

Indonesia’s hopes of an equalizer were dashed when Rizky Ridho was sent off in the 84th, leaving his team with 10 men. Uzbekistan doubled the margin four minutes before the end when Pratama Arhan conceded an own goal.

Captain Abdurauf Buriev of Uzbekistan was pleased to secure a historic Olympic place but still wanted the Asian title.

It’s a very big moment in my career, but I can’t say anything (more) because it was a very emotional match and we have one more match to prepare for, the midfielder said. “There was no pressure on me as captain, it gave me some extra motivation and I focused on the match and getting the win.”

Japan scored twice in the first half to take control of Iraq, with captain Joel Fujita playing a key role in creating chances for Mao Hosoya and Ryotaro Araki.

The loser between Indonesia and Iraq will play a play-off against Guinea in May, with a place in Paris at stake.

Indonesia, who upset Australia in the group stage and then beat South Korea in a shootout after their quarter-final ended 2-2, are aiming to reach the Olympic tournament for the first time since the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia.

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