Work commitments meant that Brazil-born Fernando de Moraes and Chris Zeballos had to return to Australia on the evening of the final four-clash at Al Wasl Stadium, where the Futsalroos gave a good account of themselves until fading midway through the second-half of a hard fought encounter.
The amateur Aussies put up a brave resitance but in the end Japan’s experience told as the 2006 champions ran out winners courtesy of second-half goals from skipper Kenichiro Kogure (29th), Wataru Kitihara (32nd) and Rafael Henmi (40th).
“A couple of players left to get back to work and it doesn’t help to lose players of that quality,” Knight said at the post-match press conference.
“The difference between teams is often the strength of the bench and we conceded at a point in the game when I was trying to rest players and the participating players were less experienced.”
“But I can’t be too disappointed with that result against a team like Japan.”
Australia’s top-four finish, and with it a place in the 2012 FIFA World Cup taking place in Thailand in November, has been one of the surprises of an entertaining tournament with the Futsalroos defeating Kuwait 3-2 in extra-time of a tight quarter-final after recording Group Stage wins over Qatar (3-1) and Korea Republic (6-0) and a 9-0 defeat to Iran, who they will meet in Friday’s third-place playoff.
And Knight believes the hectic schedule has finally caught up with his players.
“In the last couple of games the players sat back a bit and I asked them to step up and play higher up the court,” he said.
“Our target is a podium finish. After the quarter-finals the target was reset. We were hoping for a win tonight but it didn’t happen but that’s futsal.”