Dubai: Japan were counting their lucky stars after surviving a potential Asian Cup upset at the hands of Turkmenistan in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday afternoon.
The Samurai Blue picked up a 3-2 victory, but were left sweating after a ripper from Arslanmyrat Amanov gave the unfancied Turkmenistan side the half-time lead.
The striker from Agabat spotted Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda off his line after 26 minutes and fired home from all of 35 yards out to delight the underdogs at Al Nahyan Stadium.
Far from being overawed by their more illustrious opponents, Turkmenistan took the game to the Japanese and almost opened the scoring after 16 minutes, when Gurbangeldi Batyrov squared to Wahyt Orazsahedov rather than going for goal himself.
From the resulting corner, Mekan Saparov headed over the bar as Japan looked shell-shocked in what, on paper, looked like an easy game.
The Japan players however refused to panic and continued with their patient passing game, without producing an end product in the first half.
All their plans went out the window when Amanov conjured up his wonder strike midway through the half.
It was almost 2-0 after 35 minutes when Gonda did well to block a snapshot from just outside the six-yard area.
The frustrations in the Japan camp were clear to see as Turkmenistan reduced them to attempting long-shots before the break, none of which troubled goalkeeper Mamed Orazmuhamedov.
Calm heads prevailed for Japan, who added two quick strikes from Yuya Osako after the interval to establish a 2-1 lead.
Japan were able to breathe a little easier when Ritsu Doan made it 3-1 with 20 minutes remaining, but the men in green refused to lie down.
Ahmet Atayev reduced the deficit from the penalty spot to set up a frantic final 10 minutes against the side that caused a stir at the World Cup by going 2-0 up on Belgium in the quarter-finals before losing 3-2.
In Abu Dhabi, Japan finally prevailed, but they will need to up their game if they hope to lift the trophy.