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Football: Asian Cup, Group D – Japan edge Iraq; Endo wins 150th cap

Keisuke Honda’s 23rd-minute penalty earned Japan a 1-0 win over Iraq. Photos:

Keisuke Honda’s 23rd-minute penalty earned Japan a 1-0 win over Iraq. Photos:

January 16, 2015: The Japan team lauded the international longevity of midfielder Yasuhito Endo who marked his 150th appearance for the Samurai Blue with a 1-0 victory over Iraq in the AFC Asian Cup on Friday.


Keisuke Honda netted from the spot midway through the opening half as Javier Aguirre’s side stayed on top of Group D with a maximum six points, three points more than Iraq and Jordan, who defeated Palestine 5-1 earlier in the day. Japan’s qualification for the quarter-finals rests on their last group game on Tuesday in Melbourne against Jordan, who are third behind Iraq on goal difference.


Endo, who turns 35 on January 28, was presented with a shirt commemorating his 150th cap from the Japan Football Association after his country’s second straight win.


Honda, the Man of the Match, was gushing about the Gamba Osaka star, who was given a huge reception from the Japanese half of the crowd at Brisbane Stadium.


“Its amazing – 150 is amazing,” said the AC Milan star. “I want to ask him myself how he’s done it. I just want to say congratulations to him. He gave the Japanese people hope and dreams; many positives. He’s an amazing player.”


Yasuhito Endo won his 150th cap, but was more concerned about Japan’s next match against Jordan.

Yasuhito Endo won his 150th cap, but was more concerned about Japan’s next match against Jordan.

Japan coach Javier Aguirre was quick to echo Honda’s sentiments. “I want to say congratulations to him and I will tell him in the dressing room later. He’s a very good person and very important player for us,” said the former Mexico coach.


“Iraq have a very good midfield and that’s why I asked Endo and Shinji [Kagawa] to take care of their two defensive midfielders. In the attacking aspect they played even better, but I gave Endo a rest for 30 minutes because of the humidity and heat. Iraq had two dangerous situations and we were able to control these situations well, but because we couldn’t score a second goal, we suffered right until the end.”


At 150 appearances, Endo moved level with former Germany international Lothar Matthaus, a player he’s looked up to throughout his career.


“It would be an insult to Matthaus if I compared myself to him,” Endo said. “I’m happy I got to 150 and it’s nice to be able to mark it with a win. I’m proud of the caps I’ve won and it will give me something to brag about when I retire. Playing for the national team has been a career goal, but I never thought I could get this far. However, I’m not about to stop. I hope I can keep going.”


Endo was generally pleased with the team performance, but he was not about to bask in his individual glory nor take a quarter-final berth for granted.


“First and foremost, I’m glad we won,” he explained. “I thought we kept our shape and hopefully we can build on this. If we had taken our chances when we had them, we probably could have scored three or four more. I think we’re improving tactically and we were solid defensively. We paid extra care to their set pieces and defended that well.


“If we lose to Jordan, there’s no telling what can happen. We need to take the lessons from this game and apply them to the next one. We want to win the group and hope to be better when we’re attacking.”


Hamza Al Dardour became only the tournament’s fourth players to score four goals in a game.

Hamza Al Dardour became only the Asian Cup’s fourth player to score four goals in a game.

At Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Hamza Al Dardour became only the fourth player in the tournament’s history to score four goals in a single game as Jordan kept their hopes alive by beating Palestine to draw level on three points with Iraq.


Yousef Ahmad’s brilliant, curling strike 12 minutes before half-time settled any nerves for Jordan, who had previously not won a match since their final Asian Cup qualifier in March 2013, having suffered a 1-0 defeat by Iraq in Monday’s tournament opener. Al Dardour then netted twice inside the final 10 minutes of the first half before the recalled striker scored twice inside the final 15 minutes.


Jordan will remain in Melbourne to face defending champions Japan on Tuesday, who are still in contention to maintain their 100 per cent record of qualifying for the quarter-finals.


Source: AFC Asian Cup (; Editing by SportAsia

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