Doha, Jan 26 (DPA) Japan reached the finals of the Asian Cup Tuesday by beating South Korea 3-0 on penalties after their rivals failed to score in the shoot-out.
Japan won the tournament on the three previous occasions in which they reached the final.
The semi-final encounter at the Al Gharafa Stadium had ended 2-2 after extra time.
Ryoichi Maeda and Hajime Hosogai were both on target for Japan, while Sung Yong Ki and Jae Won Hwang, with a last minute equaliser in extra time, netted South Korea's goals.
In the shoot-out, Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima was the match winner for his side as he saved spot-kicks from Ja Cheol Koo and Yong Rae Lee, while Jeong Ho Hong put his wide.
Yasuyuki Konno then scored the decisive penalty for Japan, whose opponents in Saturday's final were to be decided later Tuesday in the other semi-final match between Uzbekistan and Australia.
"It does not matter whom we play, we are now in the final and we have to win it," Kawashima said.
Man-of-the-match Keisuke Honda said: "I don't think we can play any better. The next match will again be difficult."
Japanese coach Alberto Zaccheroni admitted that their opponents had played better in the second half. "They pushed us through their physical ability.
"In the end we conceded a goal and I have to give credit to the Korean team, they are a fantastic team and we managed to beat a fantastic team."
His Korean counterpart, Cho Kwang Rae, said that even though his players had played two matches with extra time in a row, they never gave up.
"We showed how strong we are when it comes to fighting spirit and passion for the game."
He said they had spent some time practising penalty kicks during training but conceded that "possibly the players were too exhausted."
In front of 16,000 spectators in the 22,000-seater Al Gharafa Stadium, the Koreans took the lead in the 22nd minute, when Yasuyuki Konno shouldered Manchester United midfielder Park Ji Sung - who was playing his 100th game for South Korea - in the area and referee Khalil Al Ghamdi pointed to the spot.
Sung Yong Ki made no mistake with the penalty.
Japan were back on level terms in the 36th minute after a brilliant run into the area by Yuto Nagatomo, who had been set up by Honda.
Nagatomo took the ball past two defenders before laying back for Maeda, who gave Sung Ryong Jung no chance.
In extra-time Japan drew first blood when they were awarded a penalty after Jae Won Hwang brought down Shinji Okazaki. Honda stepped up to take the penalty, but saw his weak shot saved by Sung Ryong Jung.
However, substitute Hosigai was the fastest to follow-up and slammed the ball into the back of the net.
In the last minute of the game the Koreans were given one last roll of the dice after substitute Takuya Honda, who had just a few minutes earlier been brought on to kill time, fouled Yong Rae Lee.
Sung Yong Ki floated the ball into the area, resulting in a goalmouth scramble, during which the Japanese failed to clear the ball and Jae managed to find the back of the net, forcing the game into the penalty shoot-out that saw Japan prevail.