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China, Japan on collision course

August 02, 2004 14:27 IST

Hosts China face a test against resurgent Iran while holders Japan take on giant-killers Bahrain as East clashes with West in the Asian Cup semi-finals on Tuesday.

Both games have added spice with bitter East Asian rivals China and Japan on course to collide in a potentially explosive final on Saturday.

However, Iran underlined their title credentials when they knocked out South Korea, beating the World Cup semi-finalists 4-3 in a pulsating quarter-final at the weekend.

"We were confident of beating South Korea and we will take the same confidence into the game with China," said Iran striker Ali Daei, who has scored 95 goals in 127 internationals.

"We are not afraid of China."

Three-times champions Iran have closed ranks since having three players suspended for violent conduct in the group stages.

"All the problems we had have brought the team closer together," said Iran's Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic. "The players have done a fantastic job of staying positive. But we need a little luck."

China, however, will be under intense pressure to reach the final for the first time since 1984.

China coach Arie Haan warned that his team would be difficult to beat in front of 65,000 fans in Beijing after their 3-0 victory over Iraq in the quarter-finals.

"Don't forget China is the boss at this Asian Cup," the Dutchman said. "We are at home so we must impose our will on the match."


The Japanese pulled off an amazing escape in their quarter-final with Jordan, winning 4-3 in a controversial penalty shootout after extra time failed to break a 1-1 stalemate.

Japan have played all their games to date in a hostile atmosphere in Chongqing, where they have been booed relentlessly by the Chinese fans.

Following their opening match, two Japan players were even left behind at the stadium after officials ordered the bus to leave to prevent it from being attacked.

There is lingering resentment among many Chinese over Japan's military invasion and brutal occupation of parts of the country from 1937 to 1945.

"I wish the Chinese fans would be reasonable," complained Japan coach Zico. "Booing the national anthem is wrong. Politics has nothing to do with football."

Japan will be strong favourites in Jinan to beat Bahrain, who have performed a minor miracle to reach the last four under Croatian Srecko Juricic.

Bahrain, which has a population of just 680,000, frustrated China 2-2 in the opening match and advanced to the semi-finals by beating Uzbekistan on penalties on Friday.

"Japan beat the Czech Republic and drew against England before the Asian Cup, so we know they are a good team," said Juricic.

"They still haven't played their best in the tournament, so we must make sure they don't start against us."

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