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Australia vs Japan

Asian Cup Finals 2011 - Final
Australia vs Japan
at Khalifa Stadium on 2011-01-29T07:00:00
Score: 0-0 (0-0); ET: 0-1 (0-0)
Official Info: AFC Report
Previous Match: Australia vs Uzbekistan
Next Match: Germany vs Australia

An absolute classic match that will only add to the intensity of the Japan-Australia rivalry. The two best teams at the competition played a match worthy of a final. Unfortunately the result did not go Australia'a way, with Japan claiming a record fourth title in the 1-0 extra-time win.

The first half belonged to Australia. We continued as we had in the semi-final, with purposeful attack and resolute defence. Japan barely got a look in and had just a couple of passages of play where they were able to hold possession and build an attack.

In the second half, the play evened out a little with Japan getting into the game. However Australia still created more chances. Unlike our last game though, where we could hardly miss, today we couldn't find the net, despite going ridiculously close on occasion. Japan's goalkeeper, who earnt his man-of-the-match award, kept Japan in it. 0-0 at full-time.

An absorbing extra-time stretched both teams. Nobody deserved to lose. In the end, it was a wonderful volley from Lee of Japan in the second half that settled it. Poor marking perhaps, but an excellent finish, a worthy decider. Australia was left to rue its missed chances.

Congratulations to Japan. It was their second 120-minute game in four days. They beat both the 2nd-placed and 3rd-placed team (something we couldn't manage) to win their title. Do they have the edge in the rivalry at the moment? Our 2006 World Cup was better, but since then they've beaten us in consecutive Asian Cups and had a better 2010 World Cup. Although we did beat them in Asian Cup qualifying. Hard to separate them, but I'd put Japan in front.

There was lots to take out of the tournament. Let's not forget we'll host the next one. This team, especially the younger half, will be burning with desire to go one better in 2015. For the current team, there was no fairytale victory. I suspect the older players will not be around for 2015 (or even 2014), so their chance for silverware has gone. A huge disappointment for them. A reward for all their hard-work would have been justified, but that's football.

Harry Kewell was a revelation. I've been critical of him in the past, but he had a great tournament. Match-fit and injury free he proved he still has a lot to offer. His match against Iraq was magnificent. He played the full 120 minutes, did not stop working and scored the winner with a couple of minutes to go. If only, he'd put away one of his many chances in the first 90 minutes.

The A-League should get some credit. Several players came straight from the A-League into the Socceroos and looked the part. What's more, they did the job and added a lot to the team. McKay starting ahead of Emerton could be a sign of things to come.

Osieck proved he's a better coach than Verbeek. The fans will love his attacking mind-set. Les Murray has been critical of his liking for the long ball. Some of this is deserved, but it's not all long ball stuff. On the whole, a bit more possession play would be an improvement. But at least we're playing like Australia again, with a positive, attacking attitude.

The next tournament, on home soil, should be wonderful. Can a home crowd drive us on to take the next step up? I'll be there.