Holger Osieck's team had countless opportunites to bury the game, but they were unable to take their chances at a packed Khalifa Stadium. "We had our opportunities and what is encouraging is the way we played to create them," said Osieck, after seeing Tadanari Lee bag the winner for Japan with a spectacular volley in the 109th minute. "However, it is crucial to convert them. It's a problem. We had to be more clinical in our finishing."
Lone striker Harry Kewell was taken off in extra-time and his young replacement Robbie Kruse immediately hit the bar with a header. But Osieck denied that former Liverpool star Kewell, now with Galatasary, was at fault. "If you follow the tournament, you have seen that he scored some vital goals," he said. "Replacing him was to do with getting fresh legs onto the pitch. That was the situation."
Australia had scored 13 times and conceded just once before the final, and they looked most likely to score yesterday evening. Kewell had the first shot on target in the opening minute - an ambitious long-range drive that didn't trouble Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima. The Australia forward had several opportunities during the match and, on 71 minutes, found himslef with just the keeper to beat, but Kawashima stuck out his right boot to save a certain goal.
"It's disappointing," said Kewell. "You create so many chances and it's just a shame. What does it say when the man of the match is the (Japan) goalkeeper? It's just one of those things."
Despite failing to win any silverware, Osieck said he was encouraged by what he had seen. "You can imagine how disappointed we are to come second because we had our opportunities. Unfortunately, we couldn't convert them," said the German, renowned as a master tactican.
"But I'm very proud of the players, their performance and their attitude over the tournament, I'm full of credit. I feel very sorry for the boys that they didn't get the reward for their efforts."
"I'm not in the mood to analyse yet because the disappointment is still very fresh," he added. "But the team really played excellent throughout the tournament. We grew into a strong unit and played some very, very good football."
Osieck, who guided J-League side Urawa Reds to the AFC Champions League title in 2007, said both teams merited their places in the continental showpiece decider. "Both teams showed they should be in the final," he said. "I have good knowledge of the Japan players and it was what I expected - a tight, intense encounter. I congratulate them because it is a great achievement. Like the South Koreans, they have a new generation coming up. They are definitely in a good way."