The Japan Football Association on Friday announced the withdrawal of winger Junya Ito from its Asian Cup squad in Qatar amid sexual assault allegations, which he has denied.

The JFA initially said Thursday the Stade de Reims man was leaving as the issue "demands a cautious response" and out of consideration due to his mental and physical condition. However, the JFA later said his departure was put on hold ahead of further discussions on Friday after many players voiced their hopes of playing with Ito.

Junya Ito. (Getty/Kyodo)

Two women have filed a criminal complaint to Osaka police that Ito sexually assaulted them last June, but his lawyer said the player has denied their claims and has filed a criminal complaint for their false allegations.

"We need to create an environment in which players can concentrate on football. We've made the decision thinking about the situation comprehensively," JFA President Kozo Tashima said in Tokyo. "I'd like to apologize for changing our stance a few times."

Japan prepared for Saturday's Asian Cup quarterfinal against Iran in Al Rayyan, just west of the Qatari capital. Japan and Iran are the two highest-placed Asian nations in the FIFA rankings with Japan 17th and Iran 21st.

"I wanted to fight through to the end of the tournament with Junya and go for the title with everyone together," Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu told a press conference.

"He's a player who has contributed to our wins and it's painful and disappointing he's leaving, but I'd like to prioritize his mental health condition. I'm not creating a team that doesn't function when one player is missing, and I have wonderful players to call on."

Moriyasu said Iran pose enough of a threat even without suspended Porto striker Mehdi Taremi, while ruing Ito's absence.

"I believe he (Ito) is not in a mental state in which he can play football in a high-intensity situation," he said. "I want to offer my utmost to support and watch over him so he can regain his peak performance. He's only under suspicion and I hope the media does not go after him excessively."

"I believe him missing tomorrow will impact the development of Asian football. It's lamentable for the fans watching Asian football that a world-class player is absent from what will be a wonderful match between Japan and Iran."

Related coverage:

Football: Junya Ito leaves Japan team after sexual assault claims

Football: Japan reach Asian Cup last 8 with 3-1 win over Bahrain