Japan’s Blue Samurai have warned they are tougher than ever after surviving an epic Asian Cup quarter-final duel against hosts Qatar with Borussia Dortmund goalmachine Shinji Kagawa finally on target.
Kagawa bagged a brace to cancel out Qatar’s lead twice while defender Masahiko Inoha hit the winner on the stroke of stoppage time as 10-man Japan battled to a 3-2 victory.
Japan fired up when centreback Maya Yoshida received a second yellow card on the hour for an innocuous tangle with Yusef Ahmed and Fabio Cesar curled in the subsequent free-kick to put Qatar ahead 2-1.
"We felt down. So we told each other to look straight ahead and play," Japan captain and Wolfsburg midfielder Makoto Hasebe said.
"Nobody gave up till the end. I really feel we have grown stronger mentally.
"We’ve got momentum and coming through a situation like that confirmed our mental strength," added the 27-year-old, who also skippered Japan to the round of 16 at the World Cup last year.
In the semi-finals on Tuesday, Japan will face either fellow three-time champions Iran or South Korea, which Hasebe called "one rank or two ranks higher" than Qatar.
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