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Australians putting hopes in Asian Cup

Australians putting hopes in Asian Cup

After an early exit from the World Cup and a decisive Ashes defeat, sports-mad Australians are rallying around the Asian Cup as their best hope of winning silverware.
Despite its status as Asia's premier tournament, Australia has until recently ignored the competition. They only started taking part in 2007 and appeared to treat their inaugural appearance with disdain. They were knocked out by Japan in the quarterfinals _ also their opponent in Saturday's final _ and were criticized for failing to hustle on the pitch and discord in the changing room.
This time around, the Australian media and fans have rallied around the team, which is one win away from picking up its first major football trophy. Television crews have flown in for the final and newspapers are giving the tournament prominence over the Australian Open. The country will host the next Asian Cup in 2015.
"Football in Australia has probably taken a little bit of a hit recently, and if we were to do something special at the weekend it could give it that momentum again to get it kickstarted again," said forward Harry Kewell, who has played a key part in the team after scoring three goals in the tournament.
Team captain Lucas Neill said that winning Saturday will not make up for all the country's sporting setbacks.
"It's disappointing not to be hosting the World Cup. We've lost out to Qatar who have showed so far they can put on a very good tournament and I'm sure the dreams they have in 11 years' time will lead to a fantastic tournament," Neill said.
"But for Australia, this is a great opportunity for us to win a trophy," he said. "I don't think we've ever been able to say that as a nation. We're not going to say this will make up for the loss of the World Cup. This is about Australia as a team going out and trying to win the tournament. It would be great to host the next Asian Cup as defending champions."
Australia's football team is long overdue some success.
After its Asian Cup debacle in 2007, things only got worse in 2010 when Australia was knocked out in the first round in South Africa. The campaign started with a 4-0 loss to Germany and was nothing like the promising run to the round of 16 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
But Australia are still the top-ranked team in Asia and are counting on a good showing in the final to build the team's confidence as it begins its qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.


Updated : 2021-07-25 11:17 GMT+08:00