Kagawa Leads Japan to Asian Cup Semi-Finals

Borussia Dortmund’s young star Shinji Kagawa scored two goals Friday to lead Japan to a 3-2 victory over host country Qatar in their Asian Cup quarter-final meeting.  Both of Kagawa’s goals brought Japan back from a goal deficit.  With the game knotted 2-2 and Japan down to ten men, Kashima Antler’s defender Masahiko Inoha’s last-minute goal brought Japan to the Asian Cup semifinals.

Qatar drew first blood in the match, as Sebastian Soria, a naturalized Qatari born in Uruguay, netted a 13th minute goal.  Kagawa scored his first goal of the 2011 Asian Cup for the Blue Samurai in the 28th minute from a Shinji Okazaki cross, levelling the score.  Qatari goalkeeper Qasam Burhan repelled a long shot from VfL Wolfsburg’s Makoto Hasebe and Kagawa missed on a chance to keep the game even going into halftime.

Qatar Coach Bruno Metsu’s team took the lead a bit past the hour mark after Japan’s Maya Yoshida was sent off for his second yellow card of the contest.  The resulting free kick was curled into Japan’s goal by Qatari midfielder Fabio Cesar.  Metsu, who before the match had compared the Blue Samurai’s offensive prowess to that of world-famous FC Barcelona side, perhaps was exaggerating a bit but certainly Qatar were the underdog in this match with Japan.  But Kagawa made sure that Qatar would not remain ahead, as he scored his second goal in the 70th minute for Alberto Zaccheroni’s team.

Both teams pressed to get the game winner, and the game looked to go into extra time before Kagawa struck again.  This time the Dortmund destroyer turned provider, as with seconds remaining he took a pass outside the box and headed toward goal.  Although he stumbled after being challenged by Khaled Muftah, the ball was gathered by Inoha who knocked in the game-winner, ruining Qatari hopes for a trip to the semi-finals.

Bundesliga Players Make Huge Contribution to Japan’s Asian Cup Triumphs

Kagawa, the slightly built 21 year-old whose splendid performance has been such an important catalyst in Borussia Dortmund’s dominating Bundesliga 2010-2011 campaign, is not the only Bundesliga player who has contributed to Japan’s Asian Cup success. Wolfsburg’s Makoto Hasebe, Japan’s captain, has started each of Japan’s four Asian Cup matches along with Kagawa, scoring a goal in the process.  FC Schalke’s defender Atsuto Uchida has started three matches for Zaccheroni, while future VfB Stuttgart player Shinji Okazaki had a hat-trick in Japan’s match win over Saudi Arabia.  (Okazaki will reportedly sign with the German club after passing a physical after the Asian Cup concludes).  Hajime Hogosai, who signed with Bayer Leverkusen during this winter’s transfer window and will start his German career on loan to 2. Bundesliga side FC Augsburg, made Japan’s Asian Cup squad but has not seen action yet.  FC Koln winter signing Tomoaki Makino was in the national team’s camp for the Asian Cup, and SC Freiburg’s Kisho Yano was a member of Japan’s 2010 World Cup side that advanced out of the group stage.

Other Asian Cup players earning a paycheck in Germany include VfL Bochum’s Jong Tae Se, who has been outstanding this year for the 2. Bundesliga side, and South Korea’s teenaged Heung Min Son,  who plays for Hamburg SV and has made two appearances for the South Koreans in this year’s Cup, scoring once.  Jong Tae Se started all three of North Korea’s games before they were eliminated from the competition. Additionally, German Wolfgang Sidka has coached Iraq into the quarter-finals, where they will meet Australia on Saturday.


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Gerry Wittmann

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