Striker Tadanari Lee carved a name for himself in Japanese football history by scoring the dramatic goal that sealed the Samurai Blue’s berth in the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013. His left-foot volley – his first goal for the senior side – came deep into extra time in the 1-0 victory over Australia in the 2011 Asian Cup final.
Tokyo-born Lee came through the FC Tokyo youth academy and duly progressed to the first-team after he finished high school. A hard-running forward of Korean descent, Lee attended a training camp for the Korea Republic’s Under-19 team but did not play any official games, and instead set his sights on representing Japan.
Lee’s career took off the following year when he moved to Kashiwa Reysol. A fixture in Kashiwa’s attack, Lee became a fan favourite and represented Japan at the Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008. However, a dip in form was followed by a transfer in 2009 to Sanfrecce Hiroshima. The change of scenery eventually paid off with selection to the national team for the 2011 Asian Cup, where he came on as a substitute in the title decider and scored that memorable goal.
A move to English Championship side Southampton in the January 2012 suggested that Lee was about to break into the big time. Although he performed well and scored once, injury hampered his season and he found himself on the periphery after the Saints were promoted to the Premier League. This year, Lee returned to FC Tokyo in a bid to reignite his chances of playing for Japan and ensuring a spot at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.