DOHA - Australia can soften the blow of
failing in their bid to host the 2022 World Cup by beating
three-times champions Japan to claim their first Asian Cup title
on Saturday, according to midfielder Matt McKay.
Football lags behind Australian rules and rugby in the country
and last month's decision, which saw Qatar emerge victorious in
the contest to host the sports's showcase event, was a setback
for the game, especially as Australia mustered only one vote.
However, McKay believes the team's displays can help lift
the gloom especially if they can beat Japan, who are aiming for
a record fourth Asian title, at the Khalifa Stadium.
"It was such a disappointment not to get the 2022 World Cup
and maybe a few people's heads dropped after that decision," the
Brisbane Roar wideman said after the emphatic win over
Uzbekistan on Tuesday.
"But making a final of the Asian Cup and possible winning it
is just going to lift football in Australia again."
Australia, the best FIFA-ranked side in the tournament at
26, were unimpressive in reaching the semi-finals with narrow
1-0 goal victories over holders Iraq and Bahrain, but then
turned on the style with a 6-0 humbling of Uzbekistan.
They have demonstrated a more professional approach than
four years ago when, on their Asian Cup debut after leaving the
Oceania Federation, they were accused of over confidence.
After a draw with Oman and loss to Iraq, they exited in the
last eight at the hands of Japan.
Their German coach Holger Osieck can be credited with the
improvement and he also brings an extensive knowledge of
Japanese football having previously worked with Urawa Red
Diamonds, winning the Asian Champions League in 2007.
"Knowledge is one thing, to transfer the knowledge is the
other one," Osieck warned.
"We shouldn't get carried away (after beating Uzbekistan)
and we should stay with our feet on the ground because a final
is definitely something different."
Japan will also be full of confidence after they overcame
their rivals South Korea 3-0 on penalties after a high-quality
2-2 draw on Tuesday.
Their Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni has yet to taste
defeat since taking charge of the Blue Samurai in August and the
future looks bright with former Asian Player of the Year
Yasuhito Endo the only one of the 23-man squad over 30.
Led by their attacking trio of Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki
and Keisuke Honda, the Japanese have played some of the best
football of the tournament in sweeping past the hosts Qatar and
traditional regional powerhouses South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
"The great thing about this team is that we leave everything
we have out on the pitch, every time," Zaccheroni said.
"We've come this far, I want to win it. We will need to
recover as much as we can. That will be the key for us."
Uzbekistan and South Korea will meet in the third-place
playoff at the Al Sadd Stadium on Friday with the
winners joining Japan and the Socceroos in securing a berth at
the 2015 Asian Cup finals in Australia.
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