Japan will bid for a record-extending fifth Asian Cup title on Friday (February 1) after easing past Iran in the semi-finals of the Asian Football Confederation event in the United Arab Emirates.
The champions in 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011 beat their Middle Eastern opponents 3-0 at the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain.
After a brace from Yuya Osako and a third from Genki Haraguchi in added time, the Japanese will face either hosts the UAE or Qatar in the final, with the other last four clash set to go ahead tomorrow in Abu Dhabi.
Japan have not lost any of their four previous final appearances.
Both sides made one change to their starting line-ups today, with Osako making his first since Japan's opening game after suffering a hip injury.
Iran started as the more aggressive side and after 10 minutes Alireza Jahanbakhsh almost played in Sardar Azmoun, only for central defender Takehiro Tomiyasu to deny the striker.
Japan were the first to truly unlock the opposing defence when Osako's ball put Yuto Nagatomo in behind Jahanbakhsh, who then put in a low cross that Takumi Minamino could only steer wide.
In the second half Iran again had the first chances but could not take them, before a moment of indecision cost them the opening goal in the 56th minute.
Following a collision with Minamino Hossein, Kanai turned to protest to the referee, allowing the Japanese striker to run off alone and cross to Osako who headed the ball home.
The game was almost levelled five minutes later when Jahanbakhsh saw a free-kick tipped over the bar, before Japan doubled their lead in the 67th minute.
The four-time winners were awarded a penalty - confirmed by the video assistant referee - when a sliding defender blocked a cross with his arm.
Osako then made no mistake and sent Iran’s keeper Alireza Beiranwand the wrong way.
At that point the match was largely over and Genki Haraguchi added a third to seal the result in the 91st minute.
The highly-anticipated second semi-final will go ahead tomorrow.
As soon as the UAE's place in the last four was confirmed the Abu Dhabi Sports Council reportedly snapped up all the remaining tickets for the match.
They have been handing them out for free from various distribution points across the country in an attempt to ensure the stadium is as full as possible for the politically-charged match, which will kick off at 6pm local time.