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31/01/2011

Asian champions receive heroes’ welcome

Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni and his Samurai Blue players received a warm welcome from enthusiastic fans upon their arrival at Narita International Airport on Monday evening after their flight home from Doha.

Japan clinched their fourth Asian Cup on Saturday, beating Australia 1-0 in extra time at Khalifa Stadium in the Qatari capital, a win that qualified Japan for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.
Around 500 enthusiastic fans greeted the Japan players at the airport with a flood of camera flash lights. Goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda and midfielder Ryota Moriwaki – the two players who didn’t get to play in the tournament – held the Asian Cup aloft.
Zaccheroni was impressed by the fans’ support.
“It made me very happy,” he said. “We would like to transform their support into energy to give us a boost.”
Asked how his team was able to gradually improve and gel as a team, Zaccheroni replied: “Our experienced players showed their leadership in bringing the team together. Captain [Makoto] Hasebe, in particular, worked hard to blend the experienced players with the younger ones. We became stronger by overcoming our difficulties.”
Zaccheroni, formerly of AC Milan, Inter and Juventus, added: “What’s missing from this team is experience, but as they play good football in the J. League, I thought we should establish that as our foundation and then find a way to adapt to how our opponents would play. Our players responded very well.”
The 57-year-old Italian coach is unbeaten in eight matches since his arrival in mid-September.
“I also added to my football culture during this tournament. It was a very good experience for me,” he stated.
Japan previously won the Asian Cup in 1992, 2000 and 2004.