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Olympics: Japan and South Korea advance
March 27th, 1996 12AM

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Japan and South Korea have claimed two of the three Asian spots for the Olympic men's soccer tournament after semifinal victories in the Asian qualifying group March 24.

The two countries will meet March 27 to decide the Asian U-23 champion, while semifinal losers Saudi Arabia and Iraq will play to see who will win the final Olympic berth.

Captain Maezono Masakiyo scored in the fourth and 57th minute in Japan's 2-1 victory over the Saudis. Obied Al Dossary's 77th-minute reply was not enough.

In the other semifinal, Choi Yong-Su scored in the 19th and 38th minutes to lead South Korea to 2-1 win over Iraq, sending the Koreans into the Olympic tournament for a fifth time.

Iraq, back in international competition, got a late consolation goal through Esam Salem in the 89th minute.

Apart from their rivalry on the field, South Korea and Japan are also engaged in a fierce bidding war for the right to host the 2002 World Cup.

A victory by Iraq, making its first international appearance since the Gulf War, over archrival Saudi Arabia would be a national victory for the Iraqis.

After Iraq opened the Asian tournament with a 1-1 tie over heavily favored Japan, Iraqi coach Anouar Jassem said: "We are determined to go to Atlanta to represent Asia and break the embargo imposed by the United States."

As a condition of granting the Olympic Games to Atlanta, the International Olympic Committee received assurances from the U.S. government that all athletes and staff would be admitted into the country without incident.



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