When Japan took on Saudi in the second semi final, for a chance to meet Iraq, little did I expect the match to be as exciting as it would turn out to be. It was unfortunate that these 2 teams had to meet in the semis as they have won all the AFC Asian Cups between them from 1988.
Japan could come from behind only twice to equalise with the Saudis who to be fair to Japan were defending for most of the time and were relying on the speed of their forwards in the counter-attacks. In Malek Maaz they have a striker who not only has the pace and the dribbling skills required to beat the defence but also the holding ability to wait and deliver to his forward surging teammates. This guy has the cut to make it to Europe. His second goal which was the winning goal for the Saudis speak of that class.
But credit should be given to Japan for playing some rarely-seen-in-asia attacking football for most of the match. Infact the game was played at their pace which was supposedly not suitable for the Saudis but how wrong it turned out to be. The Saudis were the bigger, taller players on the ground but the Japanese persisted with long balls and crosses from the flanks. They had a stunning shot at the crossbar towards the end of the match.
Both the teams had youngsters in them as they were preparing for the 2010 world cup qualifications. Anyways the teams should be thanked for the wonderful match they played in Hanoi, fittingly a venue other than Jakarta which had hordes of people watching the matches in the stadium.