Uzbekistan and Japan qualify for men’s Olympic soccer by reaching U23 Asian Cup final

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DOHA, Qatar, April 30, (AP): Uzbekistan qualified for men’s Olympic soccer after years of near-misses, reaching the Under-23 Asian Cup final.

The Uzbeks beat Indonesia 2-0 in the semifinals and will face Japan in the final on Friday.
Japan secured an eighth consecutive Olympic appearance by defeating Iraq 2-1.
The top three teams qualify automatically for the Paris Games and Iraq and Indonesia will meet in Thursday’s playoff to decide the remaining place.

Uzbekistan has had an unlucky run. It won the biennial Asian tournament in the non-Olympic years of 2018 and 2022. In 2020, the team finished fourth, missing out on the Tokyo Games after losing the playoff against Australia.

There was no heartbreak this time. Khusain Norchaev scored midway through the second half and Pratama Arhan conceded an own goal four minutes from the end at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.
Uzbekistan captain Abdurauf Buriev was delighted to secure a historic Olympic berth but still wanted the Asian title.

“It is a very big moment in my career,” the midfielder said. “It was a very emotional match and we still have one game to prepare for.”
Japan scored twice in the first half to take control against Iraq. Mao Hosoya and Ryotaro Araki got the goals.
The Indonesia-Iraq loser will face Guinea in a playoff in May with a place in Paris at stake.

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