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Japan, Korea Republic secure Rio spots

Wednesday, January 27, 2016 10:18:00 AM America/Los_Angeles

Japan and Korea Republic grabbed Asia's first two tickets to the Men's Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 in dramatic fashion after winning their respective semi-finals late on against Iraq and Qatar at the AFC U-23 Championship in Doha.

A thrilling finale to the first game saw Riki Harakawa slam home a stoppage time winner, after Saad Natiq had equalised Yuya Kubo's opener in the first half. The second semi-final saw a similarly theatrical finale, with Kwon Changhoon and Moon Changjin scoring late on to secure the 2012 bronze medal winners’ passage after Ahmed Alaa had levelled Ryu Seungwoo’s opener.

Japan took the lead in the opening semi-final thanks to a flowing counter-attack. Musashi Suzuki burst down the Japanese left and sprinted clear of the Iraqi defence. The No9 put in an enticing ball that was duly converted by the onrushing Kubo. Iraq levelled things up late in the first half with Natiq eventually heading home after Masatoshi Kushiniki had made a valiant double-stop with the Samurai Blue failing to clear following a corner.

Qatar and Iraq will face off in Friday’s match for third place to determine who will join Japan and Korea Republic with the third and final Asian spot at Rio 2016. The victorious semi-finalists will contest the AFC U-23 Championship final on Saturday.

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