Japan score eight in record victory

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The Independent Football

Japan beat Uzbekistan by a record 8-1 scoreline to reach the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup yesterday.

Japan beat Uzbekistan by a record 8-1 scoreline to reach the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup yesterday.

The Japanese success, featuring hat-tricks from Akinori Nishizawa and Naohiro Takahara, is the biggest victory in the history of the tournament. "Our goal today wasn't to set a new record but to get three points and make it to the quarter-finals," said Japan's French coach Philippe Troussier.

"I am very happy and also a little surprised. It was too easy."

After defeating the defending champions, Saudi Arabia, 4-1 in their opening match, the Japanese produced another high-scoring display, finding the net five times inside the opening 25 minutes.

The previous highest victory was accomplished by Iran who thrashed Bangladesh 7-0 in 1980.

The former record-holders will be battling it out with Iraq today to secure a place in the quarter-finals. Matches between the two, once the powerhouses of Asian football are always full of tension following the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and both go into their latest encounter with little separating them. Both teams have four points, but Iran has the edge with a superior goal difference.

Their last meeting resulted in a 2-1 victory for Iraq in 1996 and victory in this year's competition would be long overdue for both countries. Iraq has never won the Asian Cup, and it has been 24 years since Iran took the trophy home.

"Twenty-four years is a long time to wait," said the Iranian striker Ali Daei, who plays for German side Hertha Berlin. "We are certain to win this year's cup," added Asia's player of the year.

Iran won the title in 1968, 1972 and 1976, but Iraq have suffered since the United Nations sanctions imposed after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Until recently the national team have been isolated in the international football arena. Their first real test came in last year's Pan Arab Games, when they finished runners-up to Jordan, losing on penalties after trailing 4-0 with 12 minutes to go.

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