Japan retains AFC Futsal Champs title

Saturday, 17 May 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Vietnam (Xinhua): The AFC Futsal Championship 2014, the 13th edition of this kind, wrapped up in here on Saturday, with Japan claiming the title for the third time. First held in 1999 and since being played annually, this year’s tournament, hosted by Vietnam from April 30 through May 10, attracted 16 countries and regions who were divided into four groups. China was in Group B along with Australia, Indonesia and Iran, while Vietnam in Group A with Kuwait, Iraq and Tajikistan. Vietnam, among the top eight teams including Australia, Iran, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Thailand and Uzbekistan, entered the quarterfinals, but it was finally eliminated from the tournament after losing 15-4 to the 10-time champion Iran. Japan, Iran, Kuwait and Uzbekistan each won a berth in the semifinals that concluded with Japan and Iran advancing to the final, while the two others racing in the play-off for the third and fourth place. While three-time finalists Uzbekistan won 2-1 against Kuwait for the third place, defending Japan and 10-time champion Iran anticipated the final at a high tempo that ended in a 2-2 draw during the official and extra time games, forcing the two sides to the shootout. In the shootout, Sekiguchi saved from Mohammad Taheri, Ghodrat Bahadori and Asghar Hassanzadeh, with Kazuhiro Nibuya, Tomoki Yoshikawa and Akira Minamoto converting for Japan to seal a 3-0 victory. AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa congratulated Japan for retaining the AFC Futsal Championship title by beating 10-time winner Iran. Japan won the title two years ago in the UAE by beating Thailand 6-1. Their first title in this championship came in 2006 when they beat hosts Uzbekistan 5-1 to become first team other than Iran to win the title since its inception in 1999. Iran’s Hossein Tayebi claimed the individual award at this year’s tournament. His 15th goal of the campaign had given Iran a 2-1 lead in the first half of extra-time in the final with Japan. His team mate, Hassanzadeh, had also been amongst the goals after finding the net eight times, and his efforts were rewarded by being named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) while also finishing as joint runner-up behind Tayebi on the goal-scoring chart. The AFC Futsal Championship is the main national futsal competition of the Asian Football Confederation nations. Iran has been dominant, winning the champion title for 10 times, and Japan took three.