Japan overcame an early red card to beat China 1-0 in their group-stage opener Tuesday at the under-23 Asian Cup men's football tournament, which serves as the qualifying event for this summer's Paris Olympics.

Kuryu Matsuki got Japan off to a flying start in the eighth minute by volleying home Fuki Yamada's cross, but just nine minutes later their central defender Ryuya Nishio was shown a straight red card for violent conduct at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.

Kuryu Matsuki (L) scores early in Japan's under-23 Asian Cup men's football group-stage match against China in Doha on April 16, 2024. (Kyodo)

Video replays showed Nishio swung his arm toward Jia Feifan after the Chinese midfielder had pushed him in the back when the two players were not close to the ball.

Japan goalkeeper Leo Brian Kokubo made a string of fine saves as manager Go Oiwa's men resisted the opposition's push for an equalizer.

"It turned out to be a very tough match even though I was ready for the unpredictable," Oiwa said. "My players switched between attack and defense quickly. We'll try to recover physically and do some analysis for the next game against the United Arab Emirates."

The top two teams in each of the four groups will advance to the quarterfinals, with the top three finishers at the 16-team tournament earning tickets to Paris.

The fourth-place side will still have a chance to qualify for the Olympics via a playoff against Guinea on May 9 in France.

Japan, trying for their eighth consecutive Olympic appearance, will face the UAE on Friday and will finish the group stage against fellow former champions South Korea next Monday.

South Korea defeated the UAE 1-0 in Tuesday's other Group B match.

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