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Infantino tells Iran to let women into World Cup qualifiers

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FIFA President Gianni Infantino had asked Iran to ensure women are allowed to attend 2022 World Cup qualifiers. Now he’s expressing disappointment the country has reneged on its commitments.

In November, Infantino was in Teheran for the Asian Champions League final when Iranian women were allowed to watch Persepolis play Kashima Antlers of Japan. But things have changed since then.

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Infantino wrote this week to Iranian soccer federation president Mehdi Taj to say it’s “all the more disappointing that it was not possible to keep up the positive momentum and to continue with similar progress.”

In a letter seen by The Associated Press, Infantino highlights a June 6 game between Iran and Syria when “the gates were closed to female spectators and when, it would appear, a number of women seeking to attend the match were detained by security forces for a number of hours.”

Infantino says he wants “concrete steps” from the federation by July 15 “to ensure that all Iranian and foreign women who wish to do so will be allowed to buy tickets and to attend the matches” for 2022 World Cup qualifiers which begin in September.

—More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Japan reach Asian Cup final after hammering Iran (video)

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Japan have reached the 2019 Asian Cup final as they cruised past Iran 3-0 in their semifinal Monday at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain.

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The Samurai Blue scored three times in the second half to seal the victory, as Southampton’s Maya Yoshida has skippered the Japanese national team throughout the tournament.

Newcastle’s Yoshinori Muto was an unused sub in the semifinal.

Yuya Osako scored twice in 11 minutes to put Japan in the driving seat and Genki Haraguchi’s stoppage time penalty kick sealed the deal.

Japan last won the Asian Cup in 2011, and this is the first final they have reached since then.

They are the most successful team in Asian Cup final history with four titles to their name.

Japan will play either hosts UAE or surprise package Qatar in the final, as the minnows meet in Abu Dhabi in the other semifinal on Wednesday.

The final will take place Friday at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Asian Cup: Japan, Iran advance to semifinals

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For the first time since winning the tournament in 2011, Japan has returned to the semifinals of the AFC Asian Cup.

Japan recorded a 1-0 win over Vietnam in the quarterfinal round, thanks to a VAR-determined penalty kick goal in the second half by starlet Ritsu Doan. It was Japan’s fifth straight win in the competition, all by a one-goal margin. Japan now advances to face Iran, who recorded a 3-0 win over China in the second match of the day.

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Captained by Maya Yoshida, Japan’s defense has continued to improve throughout the tournament, shutting out both Saudi Arabia and the technically gifted Vietnam in the last two rounds.

It was an even bigger milestone for Iran. For the first time in 15 years, Team Melli is heading to the semifinal round. Iran took advantage of a mistake by China defender Feng Xiaoting when Sardar Azmoun picked his pocket as the last defender, squaring it to Mehdi Taremi for the opening goal in the 18th minute. Iran doubled the lead in the 31st minute through another defensive error from China on a long ball, as Azmoun rounded the goalkeeper to score. Yet again, another defensive miscue led to Iran’s third goal, with Karim Ansarifard providing the finishing touch.

China striker Yu Dabao and We Lei were each held scoreless, despite scoring two goals each so far in the tournament.

Asian Cup Wrap: South Korea clinches top spot in group, and more

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Heung-Min Son started, recorded an assist and went 89 minutes three days after arriving in the United Arab Emirates as South Korea finished off the group stage with a resounding, 2-0 win over China.

With the win, South Korea’s third straight, the Taegeuk Warriors advance to the knockout stages as one of the top seeds, where they’ll face a third-place team in their next match. Ui-Jo Huang scored on a penalty kick in the 14th minute to give South Korea the lead, and six minutes into the second half, Min-Jae Kim powered home a header off a Son corner kick to put the game away.

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China won’t be too upset about the defeat. They finished in second place in Group C, and will open the knockout round against Thailand.

Elsewhere in Asian Cup action, Vitalij Lux scored a hat-trick as Kyrgyzstan beat the Philippines, possibly earning a spot in the knockout stages. It’s Kyrgyzstan‘s first appearance at the Asian Cup.

In Group D action, leaders Iraq and Iran, both enemies politically, perhaps finished with an appropriate scoreline. The two sides settled for a scoreless draw, seeing both advance to the next round. Vietnam, meanwhile, picked up its first win in a 2-0 victory over Yemen, potentially keeping its Asian Cup hopes alive for a few more days.

Asian Cup: Iran and Iraq advance; Saudis on verge

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) Iran and Iraq advanced to the knockout stages of the Asian Cup on Saturday with a game to spare.

Three-time champion Iran beat Vietnam 2-0 and secured its spot in the round of 16 when 2015 semifinalist Iraq beat Yemen 3-0 in another Group D game.

Another three-time champion, Saudi Arabia, moved closer to gaining its spot in the next round after beating Lebanon 2-0 in Group E.

With two wins each, Iran and Iraq meet in Dubai on Wednesday to decide the group winner.

Saudi Arabia meets Qatar on Thursday to close the group stage in a highly charged game amid the political tensions between the two nations.

The top two teams in each group and the four best third-placed teams advance to the round of 16.

It was a record ninth successive victory for Iran in Asian Cup group matches. Asia’s top-ranked team has dominated possession and looked comfortable in its opening two games, scoring seven goals without conceding.

Iran’s Sardar Azmoun took care of the goals against Vietnam, scoring in each half.

Saman Ghoddos crossed for the forward to put Iran ahead with a close-range header before halftime. Azmoun added his second in the 69th with a left-footed strike from the middle of the box for his third goal at the tournament.

Vietnam lost a second straight match after falling to Iraq 3-2.

Iran is led by former Real Madrid and Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz, who is chasing a major title with Iran after eight years in charge.

In Sharjah, Mohanad Ali Kadhim and Bashar Resan Bonyan scored with low shots from outside of the area early in the first half to give Iraq a comfortable advantage against Yemen. Substitute Alaa Abbas sealed it in second-half injury time.

Yemen and Vietnam are pointless and will fight for third place in Al Ain on Wednesday.

In Dubai, Fahad Al Muwallad opened the scoring 12 minutes into the game and Hussain Almoqahwi doubled the lead in the 67th.

With two wins from two, Saudi Arabia leads Group E with six points and could advance with a game in hand if North Korea fails to beat Qatar on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia won its opening two games at the Asian Cup for the first time since 1996, when it last won the title.

After two defeats, Lebanon faces a must win against North Korea to have a chance to make it to the next round.