Singapore: All-conquering Japan starred on the pitch in a year of upheaval for Asian football after regional chief Mohamed bin Hammam's fall from grace in a sensational bribery case.

Japan's Blue Samurai were crowned Asian champions in January, only to be outdone by their "Nadeshiko" women's team, who helped ease the trauma of a major earthquake disaster by claiming the region's first senior world title.

Chinese football took a giant step forward with the signing of Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka, as the Super League looked to move on from a major match-fixing scandal.

But corruption engulfed South Korea's K-League as the unearthing of a deep-seated match-fixing culture left dozens of people in the dock and was closely linked to two suicides.

Qatar's Al Sadd were crowned Asia's club champions, and then went on to beat African title-holders Esperance in the Club World Cup before falling to Spain's Barcelona.

However bin Hammam, who also comes from Qatar, endured a torrid year after his bid to replace Sepp Blatter from the FIFA presidency was derailed by claims he handed out cash-stuffed envelopes to the body's delegates.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) boss left FIFA's June congress in Zurich not as its new chief, but banned from the sport. He is now fighting the sanction at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Japan produced the lion's share of positive headlines when they claimed their fourth Asian title in memorable fashion when Tadanari Lee's sumptuous volley downed Australia 1-0 in extra-time.

The Blue Samurai had inched their way to the final with tight wins in the quarters and semi-final against Qatar and South Korea, and it wasn't until the 109th minute that Lee's left-footer settled the thriller in Doha.

But the tournament also demonstrated progress for Australia, the region's second-ranked side who bounced back from a disappointing Asian debut in 2007 to reach their first final.

Japan's Nadeshiko then took centre-stage when they shocked favourites the United States in the women's World Cup final -- a result hailed as a "miracle" by a disbelieving Japanese press.

Japan edged a nail-biting match 3-1 on penalties after they twice came from behind to be locked at 2-2 after extra time, prompting celebrations both on the streets of Tokyo and in the shelters housing earthquake and tsunami refugees.

"This will help brighten the atmosphere at the temporary housing complex. It will boost our efforts to hang on," Katsuo Mori, a 74-year-old man whose home was washed away by the tsunami, told Jiji Press news agency.

Japan's exploits were rewarded by an impressive 10 of a possible 19 awards at the AFC annual prize-giving ceremony, including best men's and women's teams and best women's player in midfielder Aya Miyama.

The best men's player was Server Djeparov, although there was controversy over an AFC rule which states only those present at the ceremony are eligible. Iran's Hadi Aghily was the only other nominee to turn up.

(Agencies)