Asian Cup – Australia 0 South Korea 1: Australia falls to South Koreans in Brisbane

 

Roy Hay

The other reason for our trip to Queensland was to catch up with our daughter and her family.  Ailsa works in mental health in Cairns and her daughter is at university on the Gold Coast so we spent some time with them today. We also met the daughter of Ailsa’s partner earlier in the trip, so it was a family as well as a football occasion.

This got me reflecting on an article in The Conversation today on the complex passions that the game evokes in its fans here and in other parts of Asia. People live lives outside football and the intersections between the game and ‘normal life’ are fascinating and variable. Some patterns are established and become lifelong, others are much more fleeting, though they may have consequences in the short term. By definition a one-off tournament is unlikely to have the same implications as a regular annual league competition, but this one has, once again, surprised the organisers.

Before tonight’s match more than a quarter of a million people have attended the first 16 games, so we are only half way through the tournament with the completion of the qualifying rounds and the knock-out stages still to come. The average attendance is over 16,000 which is stunning since it is spread over all venues. Even Canberra, which is supposed to be empty in January, is drawing crowds from 5000 to 12000.

Past Asian Cup tournaments often had huge attendances when the home team was playing and virtually empty stadia elsewhere. This one has a much more even spread of crowds and they consist of a mixture of Australian residents who have embraced the matches and visitors from overseas. The residents are also a mixture of people whose heritage relates to the teams playing and others who have no direct connections. Some of the latter have other domestic agendas that they are playing out at the games.

We joined 48,513 fans of Australia and South Korea for their encounter at Brisbane Stadium, having worked out the way to get from our hotel to the ground with the minimum of fuss. It involved two bus legs but got us to the ground early to meet the son-in-law and daughter of Jim and Angela Cassels and their two children.  Their son, Calum, is a keen footballer, currently in the middle of his Futsal season, where he tells me he is doing well.

I caught up with Jeans Zhou Jian, the Media Manager of the Olympic Council of Asia, who is volunteering at the Asian Cup. He confirmed my view about the attendances at previous Asian Cups, but said I needed to take account of the different circumstances under which previous cups were held. For example, Qatar, which hosted the 2011 iteration, has a tiny indigenous population and a large migrant group of workers. The 2007 competition had four hosts—Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam—so that must have had an impact.

We settled down to watch the game from high up in the Caxton Road end of the ground, a fine vantage point for a strategic view of play, but quite far from the action. The pitch had a very agricultural section in the middle it appeared, which must have sapped the legs of the players along with the very high humidity and lack of wind at pitch level. Up in the stand it was more comfortable as there was some breeze passing through, as there is no back to the roof section.

Once again Australia appeared not to be switched on at the start conceding a corner kick shortly after kick-off and the Koreans kept the pressure on even when that was cleared. Australia needs to do something about these slow starts. Up front Tomi Juric and Nathan Burns were playing together for the first time and it showed as they tried to learn to dovetail their runs. Matt McKay started again in midfield as a local hero and Aziz Behich took over from Jason Davidson at left back. Tim Cahill, Matthew Leckie and Robbie Kruse were all on the bench. James Troisi came in for his second game of the tournament.

Korea continued to look threatening and took the lead in the 33rd minute. Lee Keuw Ho cut in from the left and fired a shot across goal and Lee Jeong Hyeop got enough of a touch to direct the ball past Mat Ryan. Australia worked the ball well enough in the middle of the park but ran into a wall of Korean defenders and were forced into extra touches on the ball which led to a series of turnovers. For a while, at the start of the second half, Australia even struggled to get the ball out of their own defensive zone such was the high line pressure by the South Koreans. When Australia did break out, Ivan Franjic’s cross was skied over the bar by Juric from almost under the cross bar. Nathan Burns had a mazy run which nearly ended in a brilliant individual goal, but that was his last contribution as he was replaced by Robbie Kruse. Soon after Tim Cahill came on for Matt McKay.

The talisman and his cohorts could not conjure up an equalising goal that would have ensured an easier quarter final for Australia. Kruse came closest with only two minutes of normal time remaining but keeper Kim Jinh Eon threw up an arm and parried the ball away. Though several extra minutes were played, in part to cover for an injury to the Korean keeper, his team survived. They qualify as top of group A without conceding a goal in three successive one-nil wins. Now Australia will play China in Brisbane, while South Korea will take on the winner of the match between Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia in Melbourne. That game will be the next one for me on Sunday night.

 

Comments

  1. Dae hae min guk!

  2. dennis_gedling says

    Disappointing considering how well Australia played. The Juric and Kruse chances were killers. We had to face Japan at some stage and Iran v Australia in the final is still a (slight) possibility! Remember 97…

    Hope you enjoyed the final Group B game in Melbourne. The Uzbeks, a great bunch of lads.

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