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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: Lippi’s China comes from behind; Vietnam advances (video)

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AL AIN, United Arab Emirates (AP) China fought back from a goal down to beat Thailand 2-1 in the round of 16 of the Asian Cup on Sunday and avoid a potentially embarrassing upset.

Supachai Jaided put Thailand ahead in the 31st minute, turning and shooting despite being surrounded by three defenders, before Chinese striker Wu Lei missed a string of good chances.

World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi brought veteran Xiao Zhi off the bench in the 64th and three minutes later he scored the equalizer, knocking the ball into the net on the rebound from his own saved header.

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Gao Lin quickly added a second from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Chalermpong Kerdkaew. China goalkeeper Yun Junling averted extra time when he stopped Chalermpong’s fierce shot in stoppage time.

China will face either Iran or Oman in Thursday’s quarterfinal as it bids to end a 15-year absence from Asian Cup semifinals. China’s national team has often fallen short despite the country’s long-term ambitions of becoming a soccer superpower and the wealth of Chinese clubs. China has only qualified for the World Cup once, losing all its games in 2002, and lost its only Asian Cup final to Japan two years later.

Thailand, which got out of the Asian Cup group stage for the first time in 47 years, had caretaker coach Sirisak Yodyadthai in charge after firing Milovan Rajevac following its opening group-stage 4-1 loss to India.

Earlier Sunday, Vietnam surprised an on-form Jordan team on penalties to reach the quarterfinals.

The 20-year-old midfielder Bui Tien Dung stroked the winning penalty into the bottom-left corner as Vietnam won the shootout 4-2 after the game finished 1-1 following extra time. Vietnam took the initiative in the shootout after Jordan’s Baha Seif hammered a penalty onto the crossbar and Vietnam’s Russian-born keeper Dang Van Lam leapt to palm away Ahmed Salah’s shot.

Despite being nine places higher in the world rankings, Vietnam was something of an underdog given it had only once before played an Asian Cup knockout game and Jordan had beaten reigning champion Australia in the group stage.

Jordan took the lead in the 39th minute after referee Alireza Faghani gave a rare indirect free kick inside the penalty area for a high foot. After the slightest of touches from a teammate, Baha Abdel-Rahman blasted the ball into the net from a tight angle.

After struggling to create chances in the first half, Vietnam was more incisive after halftime. In the 51st, Nguyen Cong Phuong flicked teammate Nguyen Trong Hoang’s cross high into the net. Shortly after, a Jordan defensive blunder nearly gave Vietnam the lead but Anas Bani Yaseen rushed back to clear the ball off the line.

Vietnam will play either Japan or Saudi Arabia in its first Asian Cup quarterfinal since 2007.

It’s the first time the Asian Cup has had a last-16 round after expanding to 24 teams.

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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.

Vietnamese players banned for two years after penalty protest

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The Vietnamese Football Federation has imposed two-year bans on two players and suspended a coach for three years after their team was involved in a bizarre penalty protest during a league match on the weekend.

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Long An players were furious at a late penalty awarded by referee Nguyen Tr?ng Thu to Ho Chi Minh City when the score was locked 2-2 late Sunday.

After initially walking off the pitch, the players returned to the field but goalkeeper Nguyen Minh Nhut turned his back as the penalty was taken, conceding a goal.

The whole team then stood motionless and allowed Ho Chi Minh City to score two more goals as the margin blew out to 5-2.

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In a statement, the VFF said that Mimh Nhut and captain Huynh Quang Thanh would banned for 24 months, “Due to disrupting the match, not respecting the decision of the referee and causing damage to the reputation and honor of the Vietnam Football Federation.”

Coach Ngo Quang Sang has been banned for three years, as has club chairman Vo Thanh Nhiem, who quit following the game.

VIDEO: Real Madrid batter Inter Milan; Sterling the star as Man City beat Vietnam

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The preseason games continued in the Far East on Monday, as Real Madrid hammered Inter Milan 3-0 in a International Champions Cup game in Guangzhou and Manchester City romped to a 8-1 win over Vietnam in Hanoi.

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Real beat Inter with goals from Jese, Raphael Varane and James Rodriguez, as Rafael Benitez took Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos off at half time. Work to do for Roberto Mancini’s Inter Milan side ahead of the new Serie A season, that’s for sure, as Real continued their ICC success.

In the final minute Colombia forward James did this to put an exclamation mark on the win…

What about the bend on that free kick? Beautiful.

Elsewhere, Manchester City won 8-1 against the Vietnamese national team with Raheem Sterling stealing the show. The $75 million man scored twice in the first half, set up David Silva for another and won a penalty kick that Aleksandar Kolarov tucked home. Sterling has now scored three goals in three games for City, while Kolarov and Silva both bagged a brace against Vietnam with youngsters Jose Pozo and Marcos Lopez completing the rout before Van Quyet scored a consolation for the hosts.

Here is a video of Sterling’s first goal as he combined with Silva and bent a beauty into the top corner…

Before half time he grabbed his second and City’s fourth with a calm finish…