Ito's withdrawal over sexual assault allegations 'mutual'- Japan boss

Hajime Moriyasu has said that Junya Ito's withdrawal from Japan's Asian Cup squad after the publication of sexual assault allegations against him was a mutual decision, with the coach insisting it won't adversely affect his team ahead of their quarterfinal against Iran.

After featuring in all three of their group games, Ito was an unused substitute in Japan's 3-1 round of 16 win over Bahrain on Wednesday after reports in Japan stated that two women had filed a criminal complaint against him accusing him of sexual assault.

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Citing investigative sources, Japanese press has said Ito is under investigation in Osaka over the allegations, which the player and his lawyer have strenuously denied and filed a criminal complaint with authorities saying the allegations are false.

The Japan Football Association (JFA) signalled on Thursday that the Stade de Reims player would depart the national setup "out of consideration for his mental and physical condition," only to reverse course a few hours later, with national team director Masakuni Yamamoto telling media in Doha that they're "now working toward keeping him on the team."

On Friday, however, Ito's withdrawal from the squad was confirmed.

"It would have been best if [Ito] could have stayed with us until the end of the tournament," Moriyasu said, speaking through a JFA translator.

"But we had to respect his will in the end. That will was agreed [to] by the Japan FA, to let him leave.

"As for the effect on my team, I'm not building a team that will suffer if we lose one player. We have a team where everyone who can play, will play to their maximum potential.

"So I'm confident [Ito leaving] will not affect my team.

"I have spoken to Ito. He's healthy enough to communicate, to speak. But mentally, I don't think he's in a state that he can play in a high-intensity football match."

Amidst this, Japan will face fellow Asian heavyweights Iran at the Education City Stadium on Saturday, with the winner to face either defending champions Qatar or Uzbekistan in the final four. The two nations previously met in the semifinals of the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with Japan triumphing 3-0.

"Physically it will be a very tough match in a tough schedule," Moriyasu said. "But we have to perform under the given circumstances. I think we are professional enough to do this.

"I think it will be a very good spectacle between two top Asian teams. I'm looking forward to that, as well.

Iran defeated a tenacious Syria in a penalty shootout on Wednesday to advance to the last eight and set up the meeting with Japan, but will be without Porto striker Mehdi Taremi after the 31-year-old, who won and converted a penalty in that game, was sent off for two yellow card offences.

Both coach Amir Ghalenoei and goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand voiced their displeasure with a less-than 72-hour turnaround between the end of the Syria contest and the clash with Japan but remained confident they will have recuperated sufficiently.

"I'm not happy that [the tournament will] lose one of these two teams after tomorrow's match," Beiranvand said through a FFIRI translator. "We know Japan is a very good team, they have very good players. But we are Iran, we have very good players too.

"Our recovery for this match was less than 72 hours but with all the things that the technical staff and the medical staff have done, I think we have had a very good recovery.

"What is most important is how we can recover mentally. And I saw my teammates today and they were very happy and very ready. I think we had a very good recovery in the mental part and we are ready for tomorrow's [Saturday's] match."