The Asian Cup will have the video referee (VAR) only from the quarterfinals on. If it had been since from the start, it is likely that today’s match between Japan and Oman would have been different. The only goal of the match, scored by Haraguchi at the 28th minute, came on a penalty in which himself suffered, but the truth is that it was a foul outside the box. At the end of the first half, Nagatomo dived to block a shot and the ball deflected in his arm, but the referee only gave a corner. Two moments that would probably be changed with the option of the judge seeing the replay.

Anyway, Japan went to the field willing to score a goal as quickly as possible. They made a real blitz over the Arab defense in the first half. They created one chance after another, but all of them ended badly. Kitagawa, who was playing in the place of Osako (the Werder Bremen striker suffered a muscle discomfort and was spared), was barely able to catch the ball, while Minamino lost four goals (that’s it, four) in front of the goalkeeper.

The “Al Ahmar” (which means Reds in Arabic), as well as the Samurais, had lost their best player for injury on the eve of the tournament. The goalkeeper captain and national idol Ali Al Habsi, 37 years old, was cut after suffering a rupture in the muscle of the left thigh, but the substitute Faiz Al Rushaidi is playing well. The first half still had shots on the post, that passed by the goalkeeper and was saved by the defender almost inside the goal and other chances. The ball really didn’t want to get inside the net, until the penalty on Haraguchi.

The positive point for Japan in this match is that the defense was less exposed and gave less space in counterattacks than in their debut against Turkmenistan. In addition to the penalty that the referee didn’t see, Oman only threatened a counterattack at the 20th minute when Muhsen Al Ghassani received the ball face to face with Japan’s goalkeeper, dribbled him, but ended up missing a good angle to shot and sent the ball outside the goal. In the second half, the Omani attack created basically nothing, while the Japanese did not push hard and only cooked the result until the end.

Japan is already qualified for the next round, the only thing that is missing is seeing who is going to finish in first place in this Group f. Uzbekistan, Japan’s next opponent, won by 4-0 the match against Turkmenistan and is also qualified for the next round. Turkmenistan is leading the group because of the number of goals and guarantees the first place with a draw against the Samurais in the last round. Whoever passes in first will face the second place in Group E (Qatar or Saudi Arabia) in the Round of 16. Who passes in second will play against the second place of Group B (Australia, Syria or Palestine).

What a difference the use of the VAR does, isn’t it? This match is only one more to take for granted. We should all try to make this sport the most transparent possible, and eradicate match fixtures from our land. Anyway, Fair played, Japan!

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