Asian Cup 2015: Australia is the Champion of Asia at Football

 

Roy Hay

Anyone watching the second part of the first half of the final of the Asian Cup in front of 76,385 spectators at Stadium Australia on Saturday night might have wondered whether Australia should have been taken off the field under a mercy rule as they were pummelled by a lively South Korean team.

Australia had started brightly enough and had its early chances. Skipper, Mile Jedinak, put a free kick just onto the top of the net with the keeper struggling to get near it. Then Tim Cahill stung his fingers with a fierce shot on the angle.

However, the Koreans worked themselves into the game. Australia had to survive a withering spell of South Korean pressure, including free kicks, corners, shots just wide or scooped over the bar, headers which crept past the post and it looked odds-on the Socceroos would succumb.

Korea’s Son Heung Min had several chances to put his side ahead, including one from a delicious cut-back by Cha Du Ri, only this time Australia’s livewire midfielder Massimo Luongo deflected the ball away from goal. Another gift was scooped over the bar with the goal gaping by the same Korean player. But he was to have his moment later on.

Then the miracle happened as Trent Sainsbury won the ball just inside the Australian half and for once fed an early ball into the path of Massimo Luongo. Though he was being held by the Korean skipper, Ki Seung Yueng, the young midfielder took a touch into space then rifled the ball past Kim Jeon Hyeon for the first goal the Koreans have conceded in this tournament. To be truthful it was a goal out of nowhere, since Australia’s build up continued to be turgid with many back passes from moves which cried out for the early ball to the lively front three of Tim Cahill, Robbie Kruse and Matthew Leckie.

 

 

In the end the local guys won, but it was anything but easy and pretty. Australia struggled for much of the first half, yet broke away to score one of the goals of the tournament through the player of the competition – Massimo Luongo. It came on the stroke of half-time and for nearly the whole of the second half, it seemed as if it would be the winner.

The Koreans, who had butchered numerous openings in that first 45 minutes, somehow found the will to conjure up an equaliser as the officials were announcing how much stoppage time there would be. Son Heung Min – who had been the most profligate of the Korean attack – found himself with a little space on the left of the goal and slid the ball past Mat Ryan. The air leaked out of the stadium as the Socceroos and their fans contemplated how near they had been to winning the trophy in regulation time.

The Koreans went into extra time with the momentum but their bodies were showing signs of the struggle they had faced to get back on terms. The first half of extra time was goalless till the last minute when substitute Tomi Juric, who had replaced Tim Cahill, found himself on the byeline on his knees, but the Western Sydney Wanderer would not give up. Somehow he managed to wrestle his way clear and squared the ball across the goal area. Keeper Kim Jin Hyeon could only push it out and James Troisi, another substitute (for the injured Robbie Kruse in this instance) reacted quickest and thumped the ball in.

There were still another fifteen long minutes to play but the Australians held on to win a trophy that had seemed so far away in the period when Ange Postecoglou’s teams were losing friendly games against quality opposition in difficult circumstances. The master’s plan worked. He transformed the team and the Australian squad and got them all to believe that the grail could be won. They did not let him or their country down.

At the end, Postecoglou walked to each of the South Korean players and commiserated with them. A little, perhaps unnoticed, touch of class. He had a special word and hug for another full back, Cha Du Ri, who will now probably never hold up the Asian Cup, but who has given as much to his country and its football team as his illustrious father, Cha Bum Kun.

At the end the two coaches were interviewed for the media and perhaps for the crowd, but neither of them could hear themselves think or speak since the appalling ground noise pollution experts did their worst at a decibel level which was painful way up in the press tribune.

The fans, most of whom stayed for the presentation, gave the egregious Sepp Blatter a real pasting and told the Iranian referee what they thought of his decisions as he came to collect his award. Then the players, minus poor Robbie Kruse, who was on crutches and faces another year out of the game for a major reconstruction, embarked on a tour around the pitch.

Mile Jedinak’s son would not give up the small replica of the cup awarded to the players as his father carried him round on a slow lap of honour.  

 

It will be interesting to see whether the Gulf states move to have the champions of Asia at club and now national level thrown out of the Confederation. Despite their loss, the South Koreans would almost certainly not vote for such a move, nor would the Chinese and the Japanese.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Grand stuff Roy. You must be so proud of the impact that world football will now make at a grassroots sporting level in Australia. AFL and NRL will no longer automatically be getting the best athletes.
    I loved how you weaved the history of soccer in Australia into all your pieces. Honour the past while enjoying the present.

  2. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Hi Roy,
    there was so much to like about the game and the result last night. Juric’s passage of play was deeply symbolic, for me, in the way he kept his composure in a confined space and was able to trust himself and his team enough to lay off a great ball under pressure. The fact that he’d been struggling up to that point made the play even more meritorious.
    Mat Ryan and our own SAS in Sainsbury and Spiranovic were magnificent in defending multiple waves of Korean attacks.
    Kudos to Ange Postecoglou. He did the hard yards by managing Panachaiki FC, the biggest underachievers in Greek football history. The Socceroos must be a walk in the park in comparison. Thanks for a great series of reports.

  3. Gregor Lewis says

    Finally get the chance to add my thanks and appreciation of your marvellous write-ups Roy.

    Inspiring reading with a prospector’s eye for that extra nugget of golden detail that really crystallises moments we might have missed and are much the richer for having experienced, through your magnificent writing.

    Brilliant!

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