What: 2011 Asian Cup Quarter-Final
Who: Japan vs Qatar
When: Friday, 21st January, 2011, at 13:25 UK Time
Where: Al-Gharafa Stadium, Doha

Sleeping Giants

It has been seven years since Japan took home the Asian Cup title in China, and needless to say the Japanese public are getting restless. Coming off the back of a commendable World Cup campaign the expectation was of a true tilt at this year’s Asian Cup finals, but with key defensive injuries, and the usual impotency in attack, Japan were threatened by minnows Syria and Jordan in the group phase.

In a team that boasts the likes of Keisuke Honda, wonder boy Shinji Kagawa and hardened Wolfsburg midfielder Makoto Hasebe, it has come as a real surprise that the Blue Samurai have failed to assert their dominance from the off. However, Japan did completely humiliate Saudi Arabia in their last group game, handing out a 5-0 thrashing. 

Coach Alberto Zaccheroni has been much maligned in the Japanese media, but he is steadily starting to get results. He has big shoes to fill after Takeshi Okada’s excellent World Cup, but the Italian has performed well enough. Top spot in Group B was well deserved.


With FIFA awarding the tiny gulf nation the right to host the World Cup in 2022, more than a few eyes have been directed to Qatar, and the national team, as hosts in their second Asian Cup. However, Qatar hardly started off in grandiose fashion with a 2-0 loss to Uzbekistan, who, it can be said, dominated Al-Annabi from start to finish. Suffering stage fright, the second lowest ranked team in the tournament looked to be on their way to another group stage exit.

However, showing great resolve, the Qataris hit back with a 2-0 win over China and a 3-0 victory over Kuwait. In their victory over China the Qatari fans saw the rise of another young starlet in Yusef Ahmed, who scored an important brace. Not only was his goalscoring impressive, but his speed off the ball and willingness to get forward perhaps showed the makings of a great player lie within his bones.

Whatever coach Bruno Metsu has done, it has worked, and his charges are playing with a great sense of confidence, showing their true ability since that opening loss. Metsu himself was in charge of the United Arab Emirates in 2007, and will be relieved to have navigated the group stage, which in itself must be considered a great achievement.


Recent form

Japan 1–1 Jordan (09/01; Asian Cup Group B)
Syria 1–2 Japan (13/01; Asian Cup Group B)
Saudi Arabia 0–5 Japan (17/01; Asian Cup Group B)

Qatar 0–2 Uzbekistan (07/01; Asian Cup Group A)
Qatar 2–0 China (12/01; Asian Cup Group A)
Qatar 3–0 Kuwait (16/01; Asian Cup Group A)

Players to watch

Japan – Shinji Okazaki: Even if Keisuke Honda were to regain fitness for this game (he is nursing a knock) few would want to displace the free-scoring Okazaki, who bagged a magnificent hat-trick in the Daihyo’s demolition of Saudi Arabia. Apart from his virtuoso performance, the 24-year-old has looked the most likely in the forward line off the bench. Quick, intelligent and with a great nose for goal, Okazaki will be sure to cause Qatar major headaches.

Qatar – Yusef Mohammad: Probably the next big thing in Qatari football as he showed against China. The 22-year-old showed sparks against Kuwait in the impressive 3-0 win and really pressured their defence with some skilful direct running.  With Japan’s backline not at its best for this tournament, the nippy forward may well get some change out of Yasuyuki Konno and Maya Yoshida.

Match Prediction

Japan are obviously overwhelming favourites for this clash, but Qatar have something that the Japanese don’t, and that’s home support. The Qatari fans were incensed after going down to Uzbekistan, and have since seen their team play some exciting football which propelled them to the next round.

Qatar’s defence however is, to put it lightly, poor, as was exposed many times against Kuwait and China even though they somehow kept clean sheets. Bilal Mohammad has been central to that, but Japan play a much faster tempo than the hosts’ previous opponents, and with an aerial bombardment from Atduto Uchida and Yuto Nagatomo on the flanks, it is unlikely the Qataris will be able to hold out for too long. In the end Japan should be too much for Qatar, 3-1.