June 26, 2009: That was a long night in Ibaraki-ken on Wednesday -- and, you suspect, it is going to be a long, frustrating wait for Kashima Antlers until they can have another crack at the AFC Champions League.
They really wanted this one, a new title for the club, and with it a chance to play in the FIFA Club World Cup in the UAE in December.
But their challenge ended at around 10 minutes to 10 in this last-16 tie, when FC Seoul's Park Yong Ho beat the valiant Hitoshi Sogahata with the 14th kick of the shootout to clinch a 5-4 victory on penalties after a 2-2 draw over 120 minutes; Antlers having played the last 55 of those with only 10 men after the dismissal of Mitsuo Ogasawara.
So the J.League champions are out, as are Gamba Osaka, and there will be no Kashima Antlers-Barcelona match-up in Abu Dhabi -- not this year, anyway.
"It was a dream," Kashima's manager, Oswaldo Oliveira, said wistfully. "But we have postponed it to the next season. The dream is still just one more year."
Typical of Oswaldo to end our chat on a high note, already looking forward to next season with still plenty to play for this year -- a third straight J.League championship now alone at the top of the list.
I had been keen to ask Oswaldo about the content of his frenzied pre-shootout speech to his players in a circle in front of the Antlers bench.
Even above the noise of the Antlers fans -- possibly as many as 7,000 of the 8,069 spectators were behind the goal at the home end -- Oswaldo's rallying call could be heard high in the main stand.
"The players feel the pressure and we have to encourage them, especially the players with not much experience," he explained.
Ogasawara was long since gone, and Motoyama and Nozawa had both been substituted as fatigue set in, removing three certain kickers from Kashima's shootout list.
Two of the subs, Nakata and Masuda, failed to beat the Seoul keeper with the first two kicks, and, in sudden death, Uchida put the seventh high over the bar, clearing the way for Park's clincher.
"I have to comfort them," Oswaldo said of the trio.
"This happens often in a season in many places and in many teams, to great players. We have to be together for the next competition."
The dream may be over for Antlers this year, but Kawasaki Frontale and Nagoya Grampus are still there, and in the hat for Monday's quarter-final draw.