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Australia's attack faces miserly South Korea for Asian Cup

Australia's attacking forces take on miserly South Korean defense in Asian Cup final

South Korea's Lee Jeonghyeop, top, and Iraq's Amjed Kalaf Al-Muntafik, bottom, compete for a header during the AFC Asian Cup semifinal soccer match be...
Australia's Robbie Kruse, center, and UAE's Omar Abdulrahman battle for the ball during the AFC Asian Cup semifinal soccer match between Australia and...

Australia AFC Asian Cup Soccer

South Korea's Lee Jeonghyeop, top, and Iraq's Amjed Kalaf Al-Muntafik, bottom, compete for a header during the AFC Asian Cup semifinal soccer match be...

Australia AFC Asian Cup Soccer

Australia's Robbie Kruse, center, and UAE's Omar Abdulrahman battle for the ball during the AFC Asian Cup semifinal soccer match between Australia and...

The Asian Cup final on Saturday between host Australia and South Korea presents the familiar conundrum of the irresistible force meeting the immoveable object.

Australia, the tournament's highest-scoring team with 12 goals in five games, takes on a South Korean lineup that is yet to concede a goal in five games, including one that went to extra time -- so 480 minutes of football.

That is the contrast between the teams, but what they share is a desire to add a major cup to less-than-overwhelming trophy cabinets.

South Korea has not won the Asian Cup since 1960, having lost in the final three times since. Australia has a vast array of regional titles from its time in the Oceania confederation, but none since switching to the Asia in 2006. The Socceroos lost the 2011 Asian Cup final to Japan.

Home-ground advantage, at the 83,000-capacity former Olympic stadium in Sydney, plus the absence of a couple of key South Korea players, should give Australia a slight advantage despite a 1-0 loss to the South Koreans in the group stage.

However, Socceroos veteran forward Tim Cahill, who has scored three goals in the tournament, was aware of the difficulty of taking on the well-organized Taegeuk Warriors.

"They are strong and they are very physical," Cahill said. "This is definitely going to be one of our most difficult games."

South Korea forward Lee Keun-ho was less complimentary about his opponents.

"If we can minimize our mistakes and dominate the ball, I am sure we will have opportunities (to exploit their defense)," Lee said. "Their center backs are slow-footed, and we can exploit space behind their defense."

It was a bold assertion by Lee, given he is yet to score in the tournament, and South Korea's attacking play has lacked cohesion for much of the tournament due to the loss of Lee Chung-yong and Koo Ja-cheol to injury.

In their absence it has been Lee Jeong-hyeop who has shouldered much of the attacking load. He was a surprise selection in the squad as he was uncapped prior to the squad announcement, had not played at international level in junior ranks, and had an underwhelming scoring record in the local league.

Australia's scoring onus has been more predictable, with 35-year-old Cahill leading the way, including both goals in the quarterfinal win over China.

A veteran of three World Cup campaigns, and with an impressive career in English club football to his name, Cahill said victory on Saturday will be his career highlight.

"I play for these moments and I play to try and make a difference in Australian football," Cahill said. "I've played in World Cups and all the other tournaments, but to play on home turf and to hopefully do something special and win a tournament like this, will definitely cap it off."

That comment suggested Saturday's final will be an international swansong for a man who many now regard as Australia's greatest ever player, but he would not confirm that before the game.

"That's something I'll talk about after," Cahill said. "My main focus is the final and hopefully trying to win something that's really special for our country."

Also making his international farewell is South Korea's midfield general Cha Du-ri. The 34-year-old, who spent most of his professional career in Germany's Bundesliga, announced before the trip to Australia that he would retire from the national team after the tournament.


Updated : 2021-09-23 18:08 GMT+08:00