Maya Yoshida’s mid-season Asian Cup adventure ended in bitter disappointment after a 3-1 defeat to Qatar handed the trophy to the Gulf nation for the very first time.
Yoshida’s Japan headed into the final as strong favourites despite Qatar having yet to concede a goal before kick-off of the showpiece event.
A disastrous start however put paid to any pre-match predictions as they found themselves two behind inside 30 minutes. Forward Almoez Ali broke the record of goals scored by a player at a single edition of the tournament when he smashed home his ninth with a stunning overhead kick.
Abdulaziz Hatem made it 2-0 with a curling shot from range, a lead that ultimately gave Japan far too much to do to overturn Qatar in the second half.
Takumi Minamoto gave them hope of a comeback 21 minutes from time by firing into the net from inside the box but it was Qatar instead who struck the all-important fourth goal of the contest.
Akram Afif rounded off proceedings from the penalty spot on 83 minutes after Yoshida was adjudged to have handled the ball following a VAR review in a decision that was unfortunate to go against the Japanese captain.
Afif’s spot-kick killed off any lingering possibilities of the four-time winners forcing extra time as the 2022 World Cup hosts made history at the Zayed Sports City Stadium.