The nature of Japan's premature Asian Cup exit has triggered deeper introspection about the state of the national side, with a daunting trip to North Korea for World Cup qualifying in a matter of weeks.

The four-time champion and tournament favorite was beaten 2-1 by Iran in the quarterfinals on Saturday, having thrown away a first-half lead.

Iran won it with a stoppage-time penalty but in truth it was comfortably the better team in the second half and had several big chances to bury the game before that.