Asian Cup 2015: The Final

Australia v South Korea
Finally, the final. The two best teams in the competition, who happened to be paired in the same qualifying group, now meet in the big dance.

South Korea played better than Australia overall when they met on 17 January in Brisbane and won the game with a slickly worked goal in the 33rd minute through Lee Jeong Hyeop, who got enough of a touch on a shot by Lee Keuw Ho to deflect it past Mat Ryan.

Australia had its chances, none better than Robbie Kruse’s 88th minute effort, which only a reaction save by Kim Jinh Eon prevented from crossing the line. Had that gone in, the draw would have seen Australia and South Korea swap places in the subsequent knock-out stages and it is a moot point whether they would both have come through despite their qualities.

But the ifs and buts are over. Now it is head-to-head at Stadium Australia in front of a sell out crowd of around 80,000, that will have a significant proportion of the 30,000 Koreans currently in Australia present to cheer on their team. They will make plenty of noise with their preferred instrument, two blown up plastic sausages banged together, and their songs. Let’s hope the Australians can generate enough volume to match that since not all the supporters will be football regulars and there will be substantial sections of the stadium given over to media and Asian Confederation and FIFA people and their guests from whom only polite applause can be expected.

Getting to the stadium by train from Central Station in Sydney is a breeze, though you then have to walk right to the furthermost gate to find the media centre and then walk up one of the circular ramps to the working area. I had hoped to catch up with some of the former Socceroos who normally gather before big matches but this time retracing my steps to their likely meeting point was beyond me.

I had spent the earlier part of the day trying to find a photograph we are using for the front cover of Phil Mosely’s History of Soccer in New South Wales, 1880–1980 which we are publishing along with Ian Syson’s Vulgar Press. We have the original print, but since it came from Laurie Schwab’s collection, it like many others, had no caption on it. Laurie knew everyone and didn’t bother captioning many of the photos he collected, so all that was on the back of the pic, was a scrawl which looked like ‘69’. Phil thought that the game involved was a play-off match between Hakoah and South Coast United, but I could not find a published version of the picture in Soccer World, the green paper which covered the game in New South Wales from the 1950s to the 1970s and the most likely source, for the years 1967 to 1971. None of the other papers I consulted have the picture—which is a beauty. So the caption will carry less information than I would like.

As I was working on this piece, Anita Milas, photographer extraordinaire, arrived in the media centre. She took the wonderful shot of Tim Cahill celebrating which forms the centrepiece of the cover design of our History of Football in Australia and she has designed the cover for the Mosely book. She contributes regularly to Goal Weekly and is the official photographer for Melbourne Victory, and with her partner produces the news magazine for the Victorian referees. She is someone whose enthusiasm for the game is quite inspirational to an old bloke.

Just got the team sheet and Ivan Franjic seems to have come up and is starting. He limped out of the semi-final with what appeared to be a serious groin injury, but which was said to be something wrong with his hip. But this allows Ange Postecoglou to put out what is probably his strongest line-up and the won which started in the semi-final against the UAE.

Ulli Stieleke, the Korean coach, has also his best starting eleven, minus only the two long term injured players, KooJa Cheol and Lee Chung Yong. ‘The Old Man’ Cha Du Ri who played in the German Bundesliga for many years and for a couple of years at Celtic is starting. The son of one of the legends of Korean football Cha Bum Kun, Cha Du Ri gets a huge cheer from the fans whenever he appears or is on the ball. Raging down the right flank he will test Jason Davidson’s mettle so both our full backs could find their attacking opportunities limited unless they can overcome their immediate opponents.

An hour to go. I must get myself organised and will send a match report when the destination of the Asian Cup has been decided.

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