Zac delight as Japan win crown
Japan boss Alberto Zaccheroni saluted a heroic effort from his players after Tadahari Lee's goal in the second period of extra-time secured a record fourth Asian Cup triumph with a 1-0 win over Australia.
Lee's superb volley from Yuto Nagatomo's left-wing cross settled a hard-fought contest in Japan's favour at Khalifa Stadium, as they claimed their fourth continental crown in 18 years to become the Asian Cup's most successful nation.
"Physically, we were very exhausted for the final,'' said Zaccheroni. "(Keisuke) Honda, (Yasuhito) Endo and (Makoto) Hasebe did not train, (Shinji) Okazaki yesterday couldn't even walk, Nagatomo had a foot problem and couldn't prepare.
"We were playing against a very good physical and tactical team like Australia, so the final was a separate game. Our attack, we played with speed and accuracy, that's the feature this team has at the moment and they improved all the way to the final.''
The Italian also hailed Eiji Kawashima's performance after the keeper pulled off two crucial saves in each half to deny Harry Kewell.
"I did not know that he was being criticised by the media, he did very well in the World Cup,'' he added. "I don't like changing keepers a lot, of course sometimes they make mistakes and then you have to deal with criticism as well. Kawashima played with composure and he knows that I trust him. He played well in the semi-final and the final and answered the criticism. Against Australia he had plenty to do and he performed very well.
"I have not won an international competition, this is the first time. This is an excellent team and we have excellent players so I am proud to manage this team.''
Australia coach Holger Osieck, meanwhile, admitted his side paid the price for some poor finishing.
"We had our opportunities and what is always encouraging is the way we play and we create opportunities,'' said the German. "However, it is crucial to convert them and later on in the game it backfired and that is a problem. We had to be more clinical in our finishing and it's not enough to win a game if you don't score.
"We have seen a very exciting game between two very good teams. You can imagine we are disappointed, we definitely had our opportunities, unfortunately we couldn't convert.
"I'm very proud of my players, their performance and their attitude. I give them credit and really feel sorry for the boys that they didn't get the reward for their efforts. You can imagine in our dressing room it's not a great atmosphere, everybody's really sad. All in all, our team represented Australia in a great way.''
Captain Lucas Neill added: "Mixed feelings: proud, disappointed. We always felt in control of the game even though we gave away a lot of possession to Japan it never felt they were really going to hurt us.
"In our defence we felt solid and strong and then one lapse in concentration and maybe a moment of fatigue in extra time, it's gifted them the goal."