Japan cruises into Asian quarterfinals

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Doha (Qatar), Jan 18 (AP) Shinji Okazaki scored ahat-trick and Ryoichi Maeda struck twice to give Japan a 5-0victory over Saudi Arabia on Monday and a place in thequarterfinals of the Asian Cup.

Japan will play host Qatar on Friday after completelydominating its last Group B match.

Saudi Arabia, like Japan a former three-time Asianchampion, had already been eliminated and created virtually noscoring chances against a vastly superior opponent.

Few people came to see the two former champions on awindy, rainy and cool afternoon, with the official attendancegiven as 2,022 at the Al-Rayyan stadium.

The Saudis, who had already dumped Portuguese coach JosePeseiro after their opening loss to Syria and replaced himwith Nasser al-Jaohar, finished the tournament with threestraight defeats.

Japan won the group with seven points and a better goaldifference than Jordan, which also finished with seven afterbeating Syria 2-1.

Japan quickly took control of the match, with strikerOkazaki scoring twice inside the opening 13 minutes.

He collected a good through ball from Yasuhito Endo,lifted it over the goalkeeper and fired into the empty net inthe eighth, before connecting at the far post with a longcross from Shinji Kagawa five minutes later.

With Japan in total command, Okazaki''s strike partnerMaeda made it 3-0 in the 19th minute following a cross byYuto Nagatomo. Shinji Kagawa might have added a fourth beforethe break, but was foiled by goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah.

Maeda notched his second in the 51st minute, nodding homea cross by substitute defender Masahiko Inoha from closerange.

Okazaki, who came off the bench during last year''s WorldCup in South Africa, completed his hat-trick in the 80thminute after collecting a pass on the edge of the penalty areaand turning to slot home.

Lineups:

Saudi Arabia: Waleed Abdullah; Abdullah Shuhail, OsamaHawsawi, Osama al-Harbi, Kamil al-Mousa, Ahmed Ateef, NaifHazazi (Motaz al-Mosa, 45), Mohammed al-Shahoub, Abdoh Autef(Manaf Aboshgair, 28), Taiseer al-Jassam, Yasser al-Qahtani.

Japan: Shusaku Nishikawa; Yasuyuki Konno, Yuto Nagatomo,Atsuto Uchida (Masahiko Inoha, 45), Maya Yoshida (DaikiIwamasa, 63), Yasuhito Endo (Takuya Honda, 82), ShinjiOkazaki, Shinji Kagawa, Ryoichi Maeda, Yosuke Kashiwagi,Makoto Hasebe. (AP) AT

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