Defending champions Japan remained on course for a third straight AFC Asian Cup title and fourth overall as they recovered from a early deficit to outclass Vietnam 4-1 at My Dinh National Stadium on Monday.
With the victory, Japan finished top of Group B with seven points but they will be joined in the last eight by Vietnam, who finished second in the group on four points after United Arab Emirates beat Gulf rivals Qatar 2-1 in a simultaneous match at Ho Chi Minh City.
The co-hosts took a shock lead when Keita Suzuki scored an early own goal but Seichiro Maki chested in the equaliser shortly afterwards before Yasuhito Endo fired Japan in front with a free-kick to put the Japanese 2-1 up at the break.
Shunsuke Nakamura extended Japan’s advantage in the 53rd minute before Maki netted his second of the game six minutes later.
Japan coach Ivica Osim made no changes to the team that defeated United Arab Emiates 3-1 on Friday while Vietnam boss Alfred Riedl made only one alteration from last Thursday’s 1-1 draw with Qatar with midfielder Nguyen Minh Chuyen replacing forward Phan Thanh Binh.
It meant a more defensive formation for the co-hosts but they stunned the defending champions in the eighth minute when Nguyen Vu Phong’s low corner from the left deflected off Keita Suzuki and flew into the Japanese net at Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi’s near post.
But Japan responded quickly and they levelled the score in the 12th minute when Shunsuke Nakamura beat Nguyen Huy Hoang on the left flank before crossing for Maki to chest the ball into the net at the far post.
Backed by a noisy home crowd, Vietnam nearly retook the lead in the 19th minute when Nguyen Vu Phong fired a shot from 30 metres that fizzled narrowly wide of Kawaguchi’s right post.
Japan would take the lead though in the 32nd minute when they received a free kick on the edge of the Vietnam box for Huy Hoang needless sliding challenge on Naohiro Takahara.
Endo punished the home side by blasting the ball into the back of the net, giving goalkeeper Duong Hong Son no chance.
Vietnam nearly got back on level terms six minutes before the break when a diving Le Cong Vinh just failed to reach another driven corner by Minh Phuong.
But the Japanese would put the game away seven minutes into the second half when Endo laid of a pass to Shunsuke Nakamura, who struck an accurate right foot shot into the top left corner of the Vietnamese net from 20 metres.
Maki then added his second of the game in the 59th minute, heading home an Endo free-kick from the left after losing marker Vu Nhu Thanh.
Japan took off goalscoring heros Endo, Maki and Shunsuke Nakamura to rest them for the knockout stage but they continued to create the better chances with Takahara and Kengo Nakamura shooting wide before Nhu Thanh nearly turned Koki Mizuno’s cross into his own net.
The disappointed home fans would have reason to cheer though in the dying minutes when they learned that UAE had come from behind to Qatar to send Vietnam through to the last eight.