Going into the 2015 AFC Asian Cup there were a number of teams who had a point to prove. After a disappointing showing at the World Cup in Brazil the likes of Japan, South Korea, Iran and Australia had an opportunity to right a few wrongs and rebuild.
As for the other pretenders within the AFC, the tournament provided an opportunity for emerging nations and sleeping giants to upset the natural order and stamp their mark.
What we saw was a competition that more than delivered in terms of entertainment, thrills and spills. Australia hosted the AFC Asian Cup exceptionally well and the public embraced it fully. The 32-game football festival saw an aggregate attendance of approximately 650,000 or more than 20,000 spectators per match.
The final itself between Australia and South Korea drew a crowd in excess of 76,000.
The 2015 AFC Asian Cup has arguably been the best one yet and whoever organizes the event in 2019 will have quite a task on their hands to top what Australia has delivered.
A fitting final for a fantastic festival of football:
Australia 2 – 1 South Korea (after extra time)
The best two teams in the tournament, South Korea and Australia, made it through to the final and overall the Socceroos were deserved winners of the trophy though they had to do it the hard way.
Indeed it was South Korea, the Taeguk Warriors, who had the better of the first half and it was against the run of play when Massimo Luongo put his team ahead with a stinging long range effort. It was the first goal South Korea conceded all tournament. The strike capped off a great Asian Cup for the Swindon Town man, who was named the most valuable player in the tournament.
Australia were seconds away from being crowned Asian champions in normal time but not for the first time this tournament there was a dramatic twist. Son Heung-min equalized in stoppage time running onto a pass from Ki Sung-yueng to force an extra 30 minutes. The finish by the Bayer Leverkusen star under huge pressure was extremely cool.
However, the effort that the South Koreans put in to find the equalizer seemed to take its toll as the Australians physical fitness started to play a decisive role in the contest. Spare a thought for South Korean left-back, Kim Jin-su who shone for the Taeguk Warriors throughout the tournament. Call it tiredness, a mental lapse or plainly a poor decision but Kim’s choice to back heel the ball right on the edge of his penalty area instead of getting it clear proved to be crucial in the build-up to Australia’s winning goal. The fullback then lost out in a tussle with Tomi Juric, who was brought on for Tim Cahill, and the subsequent cross from the Socceroo forward was palmed out by Kim Jin-hyeon into the path of James Troisi who gratefully tucked the ball home.