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Fukunishi recalls 2004 Asian Cup triumph with Japan

Takashi Fukunishi has fond memories of playing in the AFC Asian Cup final ten years ago.

The 37-year old former midfielder helped Japan clinch the 2004 title by scoring the opening goal in their eventual 3-1 final win over China in Beijing.

Fukunishi had won the AFC Club Championship with Jubilo Iwata five years earlier, beating Iran's Esteghlal 2-1 in the final in Tehran, and he believes that atmosphere prepared him for the Asian Cup final against hosts China in front of more than 60,000 fans at the Workers Stadium.

"The atmosphere felt like a proper away game right from the beginning, especially when we weren't able to hear our national anthem because of the noise from the Chinese fans in the stadium," said Fukunishi who is in Sydney for Wednesday's draw for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.

"As the game went on, I was able to play my normal game because of the experience I had personally in Tehran in the final of the Asian Club Championship.

"Having played in front of 80,000 fans who were all shouting against Jubilo Iwata really helped, because it meant I had experience of this kind of atmosphere.

"Right after I scored the first goal, the stadium suddenly became so silent. That indicated the value and significance of my goal and also gave me a good feeling, a real sense of achievement."

Fukunishi, who made 64 appearances for the Blue Samurai, said he counts the 2004 Asian Cup as the biggest milestone of his career.

"Winning the 2004 AFC Asian Cup is one of the biggest and most special achievements of my career," he added.

"In the 2004 competition, I strongly believed that Japan must win this title as a representative of the entire Japanese football family and for the sake of Japan's pride, and so did my team-mates. And we did it!"

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Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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