China to play Iran in Asian Cup quarterfinals

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Iran and China will face off in the Asian Cup quarterfinals on Thursday after they both won their last-16 games, while Vietnam scraped through in a penalty shootout.

Iran, Asia’s top-ranked team, had to save an early penalty against Oman, but rarely looked in danger after that on the way to a routine 2-0 win on Sunday. Earlier, Marcello Lippi’s China had to recover from a goal down to beat Thailand 2-1 in a result which highlighted China’s struggles to live up to its ambitions of becoming a football superpower.

Iran nearly went behind right at the start when Seyed Majid Hosseini brought down Oman forward Ahmed Al Mahajiri in the penalty area with a desperate lunge.

However, goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand displayed superb reactions to push Al Mahajiri’s penalty wide of the post.

Brighton winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh gave Iran the lead when he muscled an Oman defender off the ball and calmly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Faiyz Al Rusheidi.

Iran made it 2-0 from the penalty spot with captain Ashkan Dejagah sending the ball down the middle of the goal after Oman’s Saad Al Mukhaini bundled Mehdi Taremi to the floor. Iran could have scored more but missed several late chances.

Iran hadn’t won an Asian Cup knockout game since 2004. It’s won the Asian Cup three times but the last of those titles was in 1976.

Supachai Jaided put Thailand ahead against China in the 31st minute, turning and shooting despite being surrounded by three defenders, before Chinese striker Wu Lei missed a string of good chances.

World Cup-winning coach Lippi brought veteran Xiao Zhi off the bench in the 64th and three minutes later he scored the equalizer, knocking the ball into the net on the rebound from his own saved header.

Gao Lin quickly added a second from the penalty spot after he was fouled by Chalermpong Kerdkaew. China goalkeeper Yun Junling averted extra time when he stopped Chalermpong’s fierce shot in stoppage time.

“The players need to be more focused and keep their concentration during the game,” Lippi said of his team. “This is a psychological aspect of the game that needs improvement. It’s very important to have the same intensity, the same determination, right from the very first minute.”

Thailand, which got out of the Asian Cup group stage for the first time in 47 years, had caretaker coach Sirisak Yodyadthai in charge after firing Milovan Rajevac following its opening group-stage 4-1 loss to India. As has often been the case at the Asian Cup, the crowd was sparse and the stadium less than a third full.

Vietnam surprised an on-form Jordan team 4-2 on penalties to reach the quarterfinals following a 1-1 draw after extra time.

The 20-year-old midfielder Bui Tien Dung stroked the winning penalty into the bottom-left corner after Jordan’s Baha Seif hammered a penalty onto the crossbar and Vietnam’s Russian-born keeper Dang Van Lam leapt to palm away Ahmed Salah’s shot.

Jordan, which had beaten reigning champion Australia in the group stage, took the lead from a rare indirect free kick inside the penalty area. After the slightest of touches from a teammate, Baha Abdel-Rahman blasted the ball into the net from a tight angle.

In the 51st, Nguyen Cong Phuong flicked teammate Nguyen Trong Hoang’s cross high into the net.

Vietnam next plays either Japan or Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

It’s the first time the Asian Cup has had a last-16 round after expanding to 24 teams.

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