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Hand of Nakata gives Japan Asian Cup victory
Updated: 2004-08-07 23:11

Defending champions Japan shattered China's dream of a first ever Asian Cup final victory, winning thanks to a controversial goal in a hostile atmosphere to down the host nation 3-1.

Li Ming scores for China which lost to Japan 1-3 in the Asian Cup final in Beijing August 7, 2004. [photocome]
Japan sealed the game on a highly controversial 65th minute goal with replays showing Koji Nakata clearly scooped the ball into the net with his hand after latching onto a Shunsuje Nakamura corner.

China loudly appealed the decision but Kuwaiti referee Saad Kameel stood firm.

Japan's captain Tsuneyasu Miyamoto raises the Asian Cup trophy in front of teammates as they celebrate their win over China in the final of the Asian Cup, in Beijing, August 7, 2004. Japan beat bitter rivals China 3-1 to win the Asian Cup for the third time Saturday. The Japanese also won the Asian Cup in 1992 and 2000. [Reuters]
Japan had taken the lead courtesy of another dubious decision in the 22nd minute when Kameel gave a freekick on the edge of the Chinese area for a foul.

Shunsuje Nakamura crossed deep to Takayuki Suzuki who nodded it back onto the head of Takashi Fukunishi who made no mistake from close range.

With the crowd roaring them on China launched into the attack and drew level nine minutes later when Li Ming capitalised on some nifty footwork by Yan Song down the left.

Yan rounded two defenders before laying the ball off to Li who slotted it home from the edge of the area.

Keiji Tamada, though, rubbed salt into Chinese wounds one minute into second half injury time when he dribbled past keeper Liu Yunfei to make certain of victory.

It assumed political connotations when senior leaders from both sides stepped into the fray and security at the game was ultra tight with at least 6,000 police on duty, some in riot gear and with dogs.

The game was a spirited performance from Zico's men who came to the tournament decimated by injuries and club commitments.

The likes of Hidetoshi Nakata, Shinji Ono, Naohiro Takahara and Junichi Inamoto played no part, leaving a makeshift Japanese team to show again that they remain the heavyweights of Asian football.

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