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Kewell revival driving Australia at Asian Cup

 Australia's player Harry Kewell, right, is congratulated by a teammate after scoring a goal during their AFC Asian Cup semifinal soccer match between...

Qatar Australia Uzbekistan Asian Cup Soccer

Australia's player Harry Kewell, right, is congratulated by a teammate after scoring a goal during their AFC Asian Cup semifinal soccer match between...

Harry Kewell already has Champions League and FA Cup medals from his club career, but he knows he will never get a better chance than Saturday's Asian Cup final to add an international prize to his collection.
Australia faces Japan in its first final at only its second Asian Cup after joining the Asian fold in 2006.
"I'm a realistic person and I think it'll be very hard for Australia to win the World Cup," Kewell said Thursday. "It's important for us to be there and take part and if we get lucky, maybe...
"But this competition we have a chance."
Kewell has been one of the key players in Australia's march to the final. He has started every game, scored the winner after 117 minutes in the quarterfinal against Iraq and began the goal glut in the 6-0 semifinal win over Uzbekistan.
It is a far cry from 2007 when Kewell took much of the criticism after Australia lost to Japan in the quarterfinals to end a far from impressive campaign on its debut in the Asian Cup.
"We want to really try to make amends this time around," Kewell said. "The first one we weren't fully prepared for it and we dealt with what came."
Proving the critics wrong has been a familiar theme in Kewell's career.
Liverpool fans in particular might have been surprised that, deep into extra time against Iraq, it was Kewell making that run into the box to get on the end of Matt McKay's cross.
An outstanding young player, Kewell was bought by Liverpool for 5 million pounds ($8 million) in 2003 after making his mark as a quick and skillful left winger for the Leeds side that reached the Champions League semifinal in 2001.
But a succession of injuries prevented Kewell from fulfilling his undoubted talent at Anfield.
The supporters' frustrations became such that when Kewell, who had been a shock inclusion in the starting XI, came off after 23 minutes of Liverpool's win in the 2005 Champions League final, there were boos from some Reds fans.
In 2006, he lasted 48 minutes of the 2006 FA Cup final before limping off, and though he was fit for the 2007 Champions League final, he was used only as a second-half substitute in Liverpool's loss to AC Milan.
A year later, he ended his Liverpool career after 139 appearances and 16 goals and moved to Galatasaray in Turkey, where he has already beaten his Anfield goal tally after two and a half seasons.
Still, the injuries persisted, and Australia's buildup to last year's World Cup was overshadowed by worries about Kewell's fitness. He eventually started the second game against Ghana but was only on the field for 24 minutes before he was sent off.
In Qatar, so far, there have been no hard-luck stories and whatever happens on Saturday, Kewell can say with certainty that he made a key contribution to his team's cause.
"It's one of those things, you work hard, nothing comes easy in this life," Kewell said after his winner against Iraq in the quarterfinal. "Sometimes you get knocked down, you've got to get straight back up and take it on the chin and move forward."
Lucas Neill, Australia's captain, said he and Kewell have benefited from the extra work they have put in together at Galatasaray.
"Who would have thought six or seven months ago that Harry Kewell would be playing 118 minutes of football and turning up to score the goal and still looking strong?" Neill said. "He deserves everything he gets."
Throughout the tournament, Kewell has shied away from discussing what Australia's success has meant to him personally, wary of hearing the accusations of overconfidence that followed the team's exit in 2007.
But he is open about how significant Saturday's final could be for Australia.
"It's a massive thing," he said. "I'm quite sure the fan pressure is on Japan to win it as well. It's a tournament we have a real chance of winning and we're out there to do that."


Updated : 2021-05-10 01:07 GMT+08:00