Semi-final Preview: Japan v Iraq

Semi-final Preview: Japan v Iraq


Doha: Radhi Shenaishil will make victory the priority as his Iraq side take on Japan in the semi-finals of the AFC U23 Asian Cup Qatar 2024™ at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium on Monday, when one of Asia’s three guaranteed berths at the Olympic Games will also be on the line.

The Iraqis have bounced back with three wins in a row after losing their opening match of the tournament against Thailand to reach the semi-finals, and Shenaishil admitted results have taken precedence over playing style since that surprise first day defeat.

“When we lost against Thailand there was a lot of pressure on our players, so we tried to think about the positives rather than the performances,” he said. “We had a lot of pressure after the first game of the group.

“We are working on winning and not having a beautiful game. The players did what we asked them to do. They had a lot of defensive and offensive plans and we were looking for results rather than performances.

“Yes, it’s good to have a beautiful performance but we need to win tomorrow.”

Iraq have ground out victories over Tajikistan and Saudi Arabia before seeing off Vietnam in the quarter-finals through Ali Jasim’s second half penalty and now stand one win away from the final and booking their spot at the Olympic Games.

The Iraqis have qualified twice for the Olympics, reaching the semi-finals in 2004 while their most recent appearance was in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Their quest for victory on Monday will have to be conducted without captain Muntadher Mohammed, who is suspended after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament against the Vietnamese.

“He’s the captain of our team and we have some players who have important roles in the team, but I trust all the players,” Shenaishil said.

“We have had stability in the line-up since the beginning. There’s harmony between the players who have started the competition. It will be tough to find someone to replace him but I'm sure whoever substitutes him will do his best.”

The Japanese, who are aiming to reach the final for the first time since winning the title in 2016, will welcome back central defender Ryuya Nishio after he completed his three-match suspension for his red card offence in the country’s opening 1-0 win over China PR.

“Our previous match with Qatar was a very tough match and I’m sure the next match will be the same, but we have planned and simulated how we will play and we are prepared,” said coach Go Oiwa, whose team needed extra-time to defeat the hosts in the quarter-finals.

“The way we perform and the way we train is the same. We will try to defend with our entire team. There is never an easy game. Every match is tough and challenging and the game against Iraq will certainly be that. But we’ll be well prepared and we’ll do our best.”

Japan v Iraq

Venue: Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium (Doha)

Kick-off: 20:30 (UTC+3)