Japan secured the men's football U-23 Asian Cup on Friday after substitute Fuki Yamada struck a late winner in a 1-0 win over Uzbekistan in the final.

The Samurai Blue, who had already sealed their place at the Paris Olympics with a top-three finish in Doha, also had keeper Leo Brian Kokubo to thank for saving a penalty moments later as they claimed the title for the first time in four tournaments, having last won in 2016.

Japan's Fuki Yamada celebrates after scoring the winner in second-half stoppage time in the U-23 Asian Cup final against Uzbekistan at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on May 3, 2024. (Kyodo)

The result means Go Oiwa's side will face Paraguay, Mali and Israel in Group D in Paris, where the tournament kicks off on July 24. Iraq beat Indonesia 2-1 on Thursday to finish third and secure their place in Paris alongside Japan and Uzbekistan.

"It was an extremely tough game but the players really worked hard," Oiwa said. "We gave some nervy moments for the people watching back home, but we're heading to Paris as the Asian champions and it'll be great if they can give us another push."

Uzbekistan had Japan under pressure in the first half but without a clear-cut chance at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium. Yamada entered the fray in the 71st minute and Japan made their late pressure count in the first of 11 minutes added on as Uzbekistan conceded for the first time in the tournament.

Japan's Leo Brian Kokubo (R) saves a penalty from Uzbekistan's Umarali Rahmonaliyev in second-half stoppage time in the U-23 Asian Cup final at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on May 3, 2024. (Kyodo)

Defender Kota Takai won the ball just inside the opposition half and found captain Joel Chima Fujita, whose pass forward was flicked on by Ryotaro Araki for Yamada 20 meters out. The Tokyo Verdy winger set himself up and drilled a low shot into the right-hand corner through the legs of two Uzbekistan players.

There was more drama, however, as right-back Hiroki Sekine was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area. Referee Mooud Bonyadifard was asked to check the pitch-side monitor long after the incident and awarded a penalty.

Japan celebrate winning the U-23 Asian Cup after beating Uzbekistan in the final at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha on May 3, 2024. (Kyodo)

Kokubo dove to his right to deny Umarali Rahmonaliyev in the 10th minute of added time as Japan held on for a further eight minutes to clinch the title.

"Winning the tournament was the first thing and we can head to Paris with confidence," said Fujita, who was named the tournament's MVP. "We'll be chasing the result there, aiming for something we have never achieved in terms of (the color of) the medal and the title."

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