The UAE’s quest for a maiden Asian Games title remains on course, but they face a mighty test with Japan blocking their path to the 2018 final in Indonesia.
For the second game in a row, the Junior Whites had to overcome a nerve-shredding penalty shootout to beat North Korea 5-3 in Cibinong after it had finished 1-1 after extra-time.
Kim Yu-song opened the scoring with a fine header for the Koreans in the 63rd minute but Ali Eid rose to power in Zayed Al Ameri’s fine cross four minutes later to equalise.
In the shootout, Ahmed Al Attas, Al Ameri, Khaled Ibrahim and Hussain Abdulla all converted before Al Wahda goalkeeper Mohammed Al Shamsi saved from So Jong-hyok. Rashed Omar then netted to set up a mouthwatering showdown with the Samurai Blue on Wednesday (16:30 kick-off UAE time).
Japan reached the semis after a Yuto Iwasaki brace helped them beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in the last eight on Monday.
The Samurai Blue opened the scoring at the Pakansari Stadium after 31 minutes when Daizen Maeda teed up Iwasaki, who curled a sublime effort over Mohammed Al Yami.
Six minutes before the break, the Green Falcons responded with Abdullah Al Yousif’s low shot parried by Ryosuke Kojima but straight into the path of his own defender Yugo Tatsuta, who could only watch in despair as the ball ricocheted off his heel and into his goal.
Japan continued to look the more dangerous and in the 73rd minute Maeda and Iwasaki combined once more to great effect.
Maeda broke free down the left before cutting a pass back to Iwasaki, who made no mistake in guiding a shot home to win it for the Japanese.
In the other semi-final, if Son Heung-min’s South Korea are to reach the final and the Tottenham Hotspur forward is to earn him and his colleagues exemption from military service, they will have to get past the “Korean Hiddink”.
Korean coach Park Hang-seo, a member of Guus Hiddink’s coaching staff at the 2002 World Cup when South Korea reached the semi-finals, is coaching Vietnam.
“Back then (in 2002) I was an assistant coach, but now I’m a head coach,” Park said after Vietnam’s 1-0 extra-time quarter-final victory over Syria set up a semi against his homeland. “We stopped in the semi-finals in 2002. But now we’ll not stop in the semi-finals.”
Spurs’ Son helped the Taegeuk Warriors reach the last four as the defending champions beat Uzbekistan 4-3 in a thrilling extra-time cliffhanger on Monday.
The World Cup star, who is in Indonesia chasing a gold medal that would spare him a career-threatening spell of military service, produced a pair of smart assists for hat-trick hero Hwang Ui-jo before a late Hwang Hee-chan penalty sent the Koreans through.
While Spurs were humbling Manchester United 3-0 in the Premier League some 7,000 miles away at Old Trafford, Son was the driving force as the Koreans advanced.
The Korea captain revealed that he was supposed to take the penalty kick but that substitute Hwang had demanded to take it – and Son couldn’t bear to watch, turning away as Hwang stepped up.
“Hee-chan said he wanted it and was confident,” he told reporters. “I told him to take the kick. I didn’t see where he put the penalty but I’m proud of him.”
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