HANOI (Reuters) - Penalty hero Yuji Nakazawa has accused Australia captain Mark Viduka of continually abusing him during Japan’s Asian Cup quarter-final win over the Socceroos.
The Japan defender smashed home the decisive kick in a heart-stopping shootout to send the holders into the last four but was left with plenty to remember Viduka by.
“I’ve got a few bruises,” Nakazawa told Reuters after Saturday’s clash in Hanoi. “There was some kicking going on from him — and from me.
“He’s a big guy but I didn’t want to back down. He kept saying nasty stuff to me during the game. I’m not telling you what. You’ll have to ask him.”
To add insult to injury, Viduka watched Nakazawa’s winning kick from the bench after the Newcastle United striker was hauled off in the 61st minute after getting no change from Nakazawa.
“Mark is a big man and it was very hot out there,” said Australia coach Graham Arnold in an attempt to explain Viduka’s ineffectiveness. “He was just a bit fatigued.”
Japan, bidding for a third successive Asian Cup title, won 4-3 on penalties after the match had finished deadlocked at 1-1 following extra time.
Alaves striker John Aloisi had put the Socceroos in front after 68 minutes only for Eintracht Frankfurt’s Naohiro Takahara to equalise three minutes later.
Australia were reduced to 10 men after Vince Grella’s controversial sending off in the 76th minute and Japan held their nerve better in the shootout than the exhausted Socceroos.
“I made sure I hit it hard,” said Nakazawa after his decisive penalty that exorcised the ghosts of Japan’s 3-1 defeat by Australia at the 2006 World Cup.
“I didn’t want him to be able to save it even if he guessed right so I whacked it. I missed one at the last Asian Cup in 2004 but I was very cool this time.”
When the whistle blew for the end of extra time in Hanoi, even Japan coach Ivica Osim could not bear to watch the penalty shootout, the Bosnian quickly disappearing down the tunnel.
“There were a lot of emotions for me because it was Australia,” the Japan defender said after avenging the team’s crushing defeat in Germany last year.
“That’s the way the coach (Osim) is. There’s nothing wrong with my heart though. I didn’t feel any pressure. Winning such a big game has brought the team closer together.”
Nakazawa warned Japan that the job of retaining their Asian Cup title was still only half-finished.
“It’s nice to win but if we lose now beating Australia will mean nothing,” said the 29-year-old. “We still have to win two more games.”