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Japan routs Palestine, reaches men’s soccer quarterfinals

Kyodo

Defending champion Japan reached the Asian Games quarterfinals with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Palestine on Thursday, with coach Makoto Teguramori saying he is looking forward to facing host South Korea in the next round.

Musashi Suzuki’s fifth goal of the tournament and one each from Wataru Endo, Takuma Arano and Riki Harakawa sent Japan into Sunday’s last eight, where they will face Korea who beat Hong Kong 3-0.

While Japan has brought its under-21s to the Asian Games looking ahead to the 2016 Olympic qualifiers, South Korea has gone with an under-23 side including three overage players who featured at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

But Teguramori is more than up for the challenge, pointing to the huge rewards if Japan defeats the hosts.

“I wanted to play South Korea here,” the former Vegalta Sendai boss said. “It doesn’t get any better than this.

“If we beat them, we’ll be on a roll going into the semifinals and final. I mean, imagine what it would be like if Japan took the tournament away from Korea on their own turf.”

“But to do that we will have to fight for 90 minutes. And if we can beat Korea at the Asian Games, that will give us a massive confidence boost for the Olympic qualifiers.”

“I can sense how badly Korea want to win this competition so more important than tactics, we’ve got to be prepared mentally. We cannot allow ourselves to get beaten mentally.”

Added Japan captain Ryota Oshima, “We shouldn’t try to think too much and tie ourselves into knot. We just have to make sure to focus on playing well in transition and hopefully, we’ll come out ahead.”