Japan wins Asian Cup with 1-0 over Australia
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Japan won the Asian Cup for a record fourth time Saturday, defeating Australia 1-0 in the final of a tournament that served as an early rehearsal for a country set to hold the World Cup in 2022.
The lone goal was scored by substitute Tadanari Lee in extra time, a left-footed volley in the 109th minute. He was left unmarked from 10 yards out and beat Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Lee then ran to the center circle and fired a symbolic arrow into the night sky.
Japan midfielder Keisuka Honda was voted the tournament’s most valuable player.
Australia was playing in its first final since switching from soccer’s Oceania region to Asia in 2006. Four years ago, it lost to Japan in the quarterfinals on penalty kicks.
Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup last month, and the Asian Cup was the wealthy Gulf nation’s first test for the showcase tournament.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter attended the final and sat on one side of Asian Football Confederation President Mohamed bin Hammam, a Qatari who may challenge Blatter for the presidency of soccer’s governing body. Michael Platini, president of European soccer’s ruling group, sat on the other side of Bin Hammam.
After mostly meager crowds during the three-week, 32-game tournament, Khalifa Stadium was nearly full, with 37,174 fans.
But in a first glitch to what had been a generally smoothly run event, there were reports of many ticket holders being locked out of the stadium, among them foreign fans.
Thousands were denied entry after police shut the gates minutes before the game. Witnesses said irate fans — some holding their tickets in the air and shouting — were forced to watch the game on TV behind a fence that encircled the stadium.
The confusion is likely to raise questions about the government’s security plans for large events and its crowd-control measures.
Some fans complained that baton-wielding police roughly pushed the crowds and ordered them to leave because the stadium was sold out, although there were empty seats inside. Fights reportedly broke out as fans tried to push their way through the gates.
Ali al-Hamdani, a spokesman for the Asian Football Confederation, said his group and the local organizing committee would investigate.
“We came from another country to watch our team but no one is talking to us,” said Hedo Nawashimi, a 42-year-old Japanese fan who had flown from Dubai and had tickets. “This is very bad. It is not right to keep us outside. Is that the way to organize Asian Cup? Is that a way to organize a final match?”
AP Sports Writer Michael Casey in Doha contributed to this report.