Japan manger Alberto Zaccheroni praised midfielder Shinji Kagawa for his match-winning performance in their Asian Cup win over Qatar.
Kagawa scored a brace to help book his side a spot in the final four of Asia’s premier soccer tournament on Friday, as they came from behind with 10 men to beat the host nation 3-2 in Doha.
The Qataris had the game in their own hands when they went 2-1 up in the second half following the dismissal of Japan’s Maya Yoshida, but Zaccheroni’s side were inspired by the 21-year-old Kagawa’s equaliser and found a winner late on through Masahiko Inoha.
Zaccheroni said Kagawa’s second-half performance inspired Japan to victory.
“I know what he can do on the pitch and what he can do for the team. The way he performed today I am very satisfied,” Zaccheroni said.
“In the first half he did not really show what he can do on the pitch but in the second half he did.”
The Italian boss said the way Japan toughed out victory was a credit to the spirit of the side.
“It was a great comeback and I could see the good mentality from our players. Eventually Inoha grabbed the winner and that shows what Japanese football is all about,” he said.
“Even though we were a man down, normally teams think about defence but we didn’t, we had the bravery to keep attacking and eventually we won the match.”
Qatar manager Bruno Metsu was proud of the performance his squad put up on Asian football’s biggest stage.
“We played very well against Japan. We frightened them and we were very skilful in the match,” Metsu said.
“Not many teams could play so well against a good team like Japan and I think we should applaud the Qatari team for a very good technical performance.”
“We have shown the whole world that Qatar is a strong team. We showed that we can play good football, although we still made mistakes and we conceded goals because of these mistakes.”