Yoshida blasts Asian Cup 'stupidity', Latest Football News - The New Paper

Yoshida blasts Asian Cup 'stupidity'

Japan skipper urges swift action from AFC, as ugly scenes and player eligibility issues mar tournament



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Japan captain Maya Yoshida has warned that problems on and off the pitch are embarrassing the Asian Cup as the Samurai Blue prepare to face Qatar in today's final.

The Southampton defender called on tournament organisers to deal swiftly with incidents of "stupidity" that, according to Yoshida, risk damaging the reputation of Asian football.

His plea came as the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) confirmed to AFP that it had received a protest from hosts United Arab Emirates over the eligibility of two Qatari players and was investigating.

"I think the AFC should control stuff about penalties and suspensions," Yoshida said yesterday, noting also that Japan's tempestuous 3-0 semi-final victory over Iran had ended with rival players almost coming to blows.

"But I would mention that if (the tournament) is broadcast all over the world, you don't want to see any stupid things, especially after the game," he added.

"We are representing Asia under the hashtag #bringingasiatogether - so it's important to represent Asia by playing good football and with fair play."

The tournament slogan has rung hollow in the Emirates, where finalists Qatar have been frequently abused by hostile local fans over the Gulf blockade of the tiny, energy-rich state.

The Qatari players were pelted with plastic bottles and shoes after thrashing the hosts 4-0 in the semi-finals in disgraceful scenes that brought shame on the Asian Cup and prompted another AFC investigation.

Japan's upset of title favourites Iran also came close to boiling over, with Yoshida himself needing to be restrained by teammates after reacting furiously to a petulant slap from Sardar Azmoun.

"We met some of the Iran guys in the lift and they apologised for what happened," said Yoshida, looking forward to today's final in Abu Dhabi.

"I expect both teams to give 100 per cent effort tomorrow, with fair play, to show the world how we play."

Japan enter the final as favourites to add to their record of four Asian Cup titles after peaking at just the right time.

But Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said the 2022 World Cup hosts are confident ahead of the country's first appearance in the final, after winning all six of their matches and keeping a record six clean sheets.

"To us it's no surprise that we are in the final," said the Spaniard, who has received messages of support from Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger.

"I have full trust in the players, they are motivated to make history."

According to reports, striker Almoez Ali, who has scored a record-equalling eight goals at the tournament, and defender Bassam Al-Rawi are the players being investigated by the AFC.

But Sanchez dismissed fears of AFC action. "I'm not concerned at all," he shrugged. "All the players are working with us, so no worries." - AFP