Tadanari Lee always believed he would be the hero for his side after scoring the winning goal in Japan’s 1-0 win over Australia in the Asian Cup final.
The Blue Samurai needed extra-time on Saturday to claim Asia’s most coveted soccer trophy for a record fourth time courtesy of Lee’s superb volley in the 109th minute.
And the 25-year-old could not hide his delight at his dream coming true to lift his side to victory after being substituted on.
“I feel super. I could not play for such a long time and I had to keep on waiting, believing that there would be a chance for me,” Lee said.
“I could score a goal in the end and I’m really happy. I kept talking to myself, saying ‘I’ll be a hero. I’ll be a hero’ before I went onto the pitch.”
“I’m really happy that I was able to stand on this pitch. I really want to thank everyone. We’ll have to work hard as the Asian champions and I want you, the fans, all to support the Japanese national team.”
Winning manager Alberto Zaccheroni said he had always backed his substitutes to lift the side when they needed it most.
“I knew he (Lee) would do it. What is great about this team is that players, who started on the bench, could produce results on the pitch,” the Italian said.
Australia coach Holger Osieck admitted a number of gilt-edged chances, including opportunities for stars Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill, needed to be converted if they were to leave the Khalifa Stadium with the Asian Cup.
“We had our opportunities and what is always encouraging is the way we play and we create opportunities,” Osieck said.
“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 but unfortunately we couldn’t convert.”