Asian Cup: Australia beat United Arab Emirates 2-0 to reach final
FOOTBALL By Reuters | January 27th 2015
|Australia's Robbie Kruse (L) holds his boot while attempting to defend against UAE's Omar Abdulrahman (on ground) during their Asian Cup semi-final soccer match at the Newcastle Stadium in Newcastle January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Edgar Su (AUSTRALIA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)|
Australia's players were forced to put their celebrations on hold after beating the United Arab Emirates 2-0 on Tuesday to join South Korea in the Asian Cup final.
For a country that hardly paid any attention to the Asian Cup until ditching Oceania to join the Asian Football Confederation, the tournament has suddenly taken on historical importance.
The Socceroos have never won a major international title and now they have the chance to do it at home. Australia coach Ange Postecoglou was trying to keep a lid on the bubbling excitement but conceded it was almost impossible to overstate the value of what a win would mean.
"It's a massive game," he said. "We made the final four years ago, and we've been in Asia a little while now, but we haven't won anything, at the men's national level.
"So, it's a big game, a sold out final in a major tournament that we're not going to host another of in our lifetime. It's important to us."
With an expected crowd of around 80,000 expected for the final at Sydney's Olympic Stadium, the Australians will go into the match with the support of a sports-mad nation and likely favourites even though they were beaten 1-0 by South Korea in the group stage.
Australia rested several key players for that pool match but still dominated possession although they couldn't put the ball in the back of the net.
"We just have to score, we didn't score last time but we had opportunities to do it," Postecoglou said.
"We had a different lineup that game, but we were pleased with our performance."
Postecoglou said the players were not getting carried away after their convincing win over the UAE, which seemed a foregone conclusion almost as soon as they kicked off when Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson scored inside the first 14 minutes.
But he also said Australia's players needed to enjoy the experience, knowing that they were ambassadors for a sport that has struggled for mainstream recognition in the country but is now enjoying unprecedented popularity.
"We've worked very hard to get to this point and we want to enjoy the week and really embrace it," he said. "But there's no champagne corks been popped in the dressing room now.
"They're already in recovery mode and planning for the next game."
The Australians should have all their players fit and available for the match although Ivan Franjic hurt his hip late against UAE.
"It's a final of a major tournament. I reckon unless they chopped his leg off, he would put his hand up to play," Postecoglou said.
"So we'll see how he settles down. I'm sure a few of the boys are sore, it was a tough game."
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