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Asian Cup quarter-finals review

Australia and Iran were knocked out of the 2007 Asian Cup at the in the quarter-final stage on penalties by Japan and Korea respectively when the teams could not be separated in normal play and after extra time.

In the other quarter-finals Iraq easily dispatched the last remaining host Vietnam whilst Saudi Arabia managed to ride their luck to beat narrowly beat Uzbekistan and reach the semis and help erase memories of the 2004 tournament where they finished bottom of their group.

But the match that I followed closely was the one between the Socceroos and Japan. The Socceroos started the match better than I thought and I was a bit surprised to see Mark Bresciano start ahead of Tim Cahill but he justified his starting spot with a good display in midfield and denying the Japanese midfielders much room to maneuver.

It was evident that both sets of players were finding it a bit difficult to cope up with the conditions and as a result the game at one time became very pedestrian. I thought Mark Viduka had a good game and the Japanese defenders had problems taking the ball from him and that brings in Aloisi. Apart from the goal, I didn't think that John Aloisi did enough to justify starting the match ahead of say Harry Kewell or even Archie Thompson. At times it looked like the Socceroos were just playing with a lone striker.

On the balance of things I think Japan deserved their victory because they had the better chances and could easily have wrapped up the match in extra time had it not been for Mark Schwarzer's acrobatic and point blank saves.

I think a few things to learn from this tournament is that preparation must be thorough and every opponent must be respected and every match must be taken seriously. It was good to see the A-League players coping well at this level especially David Carney and I hope that whoever takes over from Graham Arnold will recognise the talent in the A-League and select players from their form and ability and not by the league they play in.

In the other matches, Vietnam should be proud of their achievement at this tournament and I think they gave a good account of themselves in their defeat against Iraq. I think the early goal that they conceded unsettled them but after that their effort was great.

The Korea/Iran match was one of those tight matches that neither team deserved to go out. But Korea took their penalties well and the Iran substitute goalkeeper Vahid Talebloo who came on just before the penalties were about to be taken could only save just one penalty.

The Saudi's continued their good run at the tournament with a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan but Uzbekistan must be wondering how they lost this exciting tie after hitting the woodwork five times. They had the better chances and played some good football but they need to bury their chances.

In the semi-finals Iraq will play Korea whilst Saudi Arabia will face Japan and as I consider my tips on TipsChallenge it doesn't look easy at all.

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