The men’s football semi-finals of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are now set, with Japan booking their place in the last four after defeating New Zealand on penalties.
Japan were the more dominant attacking side over 120 scoreless minutes against the OlyWhites, but neither side could find a breakthrough, ultimately forcing the match to spot kicks.
Kashima Antlers’ Ayase Ueda, playing in his home stadium, calmly scored Japan’s first kick, and that early tone of cool composure was matched in the next frame by 20-year-old Kosei Tani. The Gamba Osaka goalkeeper, on loan at Shonan Bellmare this season, sprawled out to his right, denying Liberato Cacace on the Kiwis’ second kick to give Japan the advantage.
In the third frame, Clayton Lewis skied New Zealand’s penalty, while Kashiwa Reysol product Yuta Nakayama scored his, putting the Samurai Blue in complete control.
After New Zealand converted their fourth spot kick, Japan captain and Nagoya Grampus product Maya Yoshida stepped up for a chance to put the hosts into the final four of the competition—and he did just that, finishing with aplomb and setting off celebrations across the country.
Next, Japan will head to Saitama for a clash with Spain. A win and they will play for gold, but no matter what, the Samurai Blue are guaranteed to play in a medal match on home soil at these Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.