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ASIAN CUP: Milan's Honda, Dortmund's Kagawa off the boil as Japan crash to UAE

Japan boss Javier Aguirre was left to ponder what might have been as his side were knocked out of the Asian Cup on Friday.

The Blue Samurai were beaten 5-4 by the United Arab Emirates in a tense quarter-final penalty shootout in Sydney which has denied them the chance to defend the 2011 title they won in Qatar.

Japan fell behind in the seventh minute at Stadium Australia when Ali Mabkhout scored for UAE before Gaku Shibasaki replied with nine minutes remaining to send the contest in extra-time after Japan had dominated play.

However, AC Milan's Keisuke Honda and Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa both missed from the penalty spot for the reigning Asian champions who were then sent crashing out when Ismail Ahmed converted, leaving an usual taste in the mouth of their Mexican boss Aguirre.

"Football is a game of scoring goals and we could only score once and that's why the score was 1-1," said Aguirre.

"We had good opportunities in set plays and good possession and I think we were superior to our opponent.

"But they (the UAE) played the match of their lives and I want to congratulate them. They made changes to keep the result and they got that result."

The former Mexico, Atletico Madrid and Espanyol manager added: "I feel proud of this team because they gave everything in these 120 minutes.

"We played in every aspect better than our opponent.

"At the end, we went to penalties and that's a 50 per cent probability of success. We showed a lack of care at the start of the game and that's why we conceded a goal and we had to fight to score because of that until the last minute.

"They won, but I think we played good football and tried to score more than them. At the end, we lost with one goal difference but I think we have to keep fighting like we showed today."

Japan's triumphant opponents will next meet hosts Australia in the semi-finals in Newcastle on January 27, the day after South Korea take on Iraq in Sydney in the other final four fixture.

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