Yuji Nakazawa blasted in the decisive penalty to give holders Japan a 4-3 shootout victory over Australia in an entertaining Asia Cup quarter-final on Saturday in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The match finished 1-1 after extra time following a second-half goal by John Aloisi and a quick Japan equalizer from Naohiro Takahara.
Goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi saved from Harry Kewell and Lucas Neill in the penalty shoot-out before Nakazawa smashed home Japan’s fifth spot-kick to avenge their 3-1 defeat by Australia at last year’s World Cup in Germany.
This means Mark Viduka will now be returning to Newcastle – but we believe Sam Allardyce may give him a little time off before returning for Newcastle’s pre-training. We don’t think it likely that Mark will be ready for Newcastle’s opener at Bolton on August 11th.
Jubilant Japan coach Ivica Osim told reporters.
‘Penalties are not good for the heart so I left the pitch,’
‘I didn’t want to collapse and die. I also didn’t want to jinx my team by staying to watch.’
Alaves striker Aloisi had put Australia ahead in the 68th minute, scoring from close range after Japan’s defense had failed to clear Harry Kewell’s corner.
Japan came back three minutes later when Takahara of Eintracht Frankfurt made the most of poor Australian defending to score with a left-footed shot in off the post. Then in the 76th minute Aussie Vince Grella was controversially sent off for a tussle with Takahara. However Japan failed to capitalize with Celtic’s Shunsuke Nakamura going closest in the very last minute of extra time – and forced a wonderful save from Middlesbrough keeper Mark Schwarzer.
After Japanese keeper Kawaguchi saved from both Kewell and Neill in the shootout, Yuji Nakazawa stepped up to convert the winning penalty and maintain Japan’s chances of winning a third straight Asia cup.
Nakazawa told Reuters:
‘I hit it really hard,’. ‘There’s nothing wrong with my heart.’
‘I didn’t feel pressure. Yoshikatsu saved two so he’s the real hero.’
Japan play the winners of Sunday’s game between Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan in the semi-finals on Wednesday.