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Japan claim maiden East Asian Cup

Japan has won their first ever East Asian Cup after downing hosts Korea Republic 2-1 in the final match of the round-robin tournament at the Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul.

The Blue Samurai were second best for much of the contest played in front of a sold-out crowd of over 47,000 but a second goal from Kakitani Yoichiro in injury time gave Japan victory and ensured the Asia Cup holders would add another piece of silverware to their cabinet.

The hosts dominated the opening passages of play and were unlucky to concede the opening goal, with Japan counter attacking from deep in their half, Yoichiro latching onto a long ball to give his side an unlikely lead.

However the Koreans were level just eight minutes later when Yun Il-Lok, after a neat exchange with Lee Seung-Gi, struck the ball into the top right corner to give the Korea Republic their first goal of the tournament.

Both teams had chances to win the match with end-to-end football ensuring a pulsating climax. However it was Yoichiro who made the most of his chance in the box, bending a ricochet inside the far post to propel Japan to the summit of the table with seven points from their three matches.

The result meant China finished second with five points and Korea Republic third having managed two 0-0 draws prior to their loss. Australia finished the tournament in last place having earlier been beaten 4-3 by China in a match where Coach Holger Osieck again tested new players in the Socceroos line-up.

It had been a difficult tournament for Australia, with only four players from the 23-man squad coming from outside the A-League. It meant the Socceroos were desperately short of match fitness with the A-League still in its off-season.

Notwithstanding there were numerous strong performances as players aim to force their way into the reckoning for Australia’s World Cup squad for Brazil next year and Coach Holger Osieck was pleased with the overall effort.

"Well, we came to this tournament with a developmental team so if you see the line-up today, one player, McKay, has more caps than the rest of the team together," he said.

"Many players have never played at this level with the national team. I think it was a very good experience for all of us to see where they stand and how much work is left for them to achieve.”

Australia fielded seven debutants in the tournament and while they will be disappointed to have finished last, the experience will no doubt live long in the memory and add to the depth of the Socceroos.

Damien Bellemore

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