By Mike Geddes
Japan lifted the Asian Cup in a largely deserted Workers' Stadium in Beijing, in what was their warmest reception of the football final.
Chinese fans waved anti-Japan flags throughout the tournament
Most of the Chinese fans left within minutes of the injury time goal by Keiji Tamada that made the score 3-1 to the defending champions.
So the presentation of the trophy was mostly free from the jeers and whistles which accompanied Japan throughout the game and the tournament.
The organisers of the Asian Cup must have been aware of the strong anti-Japanese sentiment that exists in some parts of China, particularly about events during World War II.
But the level of hostility seems to have taken them by surprise.
Perhaps they should have expected that when tens of thousands of like-minded people are gathered together under one roof, football is sometimes not the only thing they want to shout about.
Chinese fans have used the games to vent their frustration at events in the past and years of perceived political slights.
The Japanese team were shocked and angry at the lack of respect, particularly for their national anthem which was met by jeers from the Chinese fans.
Comments from Japanese officials criticising China for not doing more to stop this from happening only inflamed the situation.
China had a strong tournament but fell at the final hurdle
And so did the official Japanese football association tournament handbook which neglected to include Taiwan in its map of Chinese territories.
All this meant that Beijing was crackling with tension in the build-up to the final, with officials suddenly realising there was a real possibility of trouble among the fans.
Storm of noise
Security was visibly tighter at the stadium, with thousands of extra police drafted in.
Any hopes that the Japanese anthem would be respectfully observed evaporated when the announcement of the team line-up was booed down to the last substitute.
Their anthem was jeered along with every Japanese pass and the opening goal, a header from Takashi Fukunishi.
Thousands of police were deployed during the match
The volume rose ten-fold when Li Ming side-footed in the Chinese equaliser after 30 minutes as the stadium erupted in a storm of noise and a forest of red flags.
But Koji Nakata's bundled goal in the second half and Tamada's late strike ensured that it was jeers not cheers left ringing around the stadium.
Defeat at the final hurdle for their bitter rivals will be hard to take for China, but reaching their second Asian Cup final represents another step towards realising the huge potential everyone is sure they have.
Improving international relations may take a little longer.