Japan is always one of the biggest contenders to win the Asian Cup. The Blue Samurais won the title four times, more than any other team in Asia. In the recent World Cup they were the only Asian team to qualify for the knockout stage.
That's the reason why the 1-0 lead of Turkmenistan was so surprising. The amazing kick of Arslanmyrat Amanow shocked the Japanese and gave some hope for the almost anonymous team from Central Asia.
In the end, Japan managed to score three times and kept the lead until the final whistle. Hajime Moriyasu and his players passed their first test in the Asian Cup successfully and kept their record in opening matches – six wins, three draws and not a single defeat.
The superb work of the Japanese team is not as obvious as we tend to think. The two other favorites from the East failed to show a remarkable ability. While South Korea had some problems against The Philippines and Australia failed to defeat Jordan, Japan made the first match an easy task.
Right now, it seems that among the three leading Eastern teams, Japan are better than the others. In that moment we can say confidently that Japan placed themselves as a real title contender at the end of the first match.
Uzbekistan have their own problems. The team that never qualified for the World Cup, qualified to the Asian Cup semi finals only once and always lack in fulfilling its potential, wanted to have a different destiny in this tournament.
Even though they won 2-1 against Oman, Uzbekistan still haven’t played good enough compared to the expectations. Maybe it's just another case of an extreme hype beyond the team, but another reason for this ability can also be their new manager, Héctor Cúper.
With all the tensions behind the Uzbek team, Cúper looks as he is not fitting enough for this team. He holds a long history of failures, from Valencia to the Egyptian national team. Adding to that to his a bit conservative style of football, perhaps even too old-school, this combination between him and Uzbekistan can finish with a complete disaster.
Their next match will be a Central Asian derby against Turkmenistan. Cúper will have a chance to show that he is still in shape and so do Uzbekistan.