Words by Ahmed Yussuf
Australia defeat South Korea 2-1 in the 2015 Asian Cup final, in front of a capacity crowd of 76,385 at Stadium Australia. The loss extends Korea’s draught for Asian football’s top prize to over 55 years.
The Socceroos’ opened the scoring in the dying embers of the first half with a long-range effort from midfielder Massimo Luongo. The Swindon Town man ended Korea’s longstanding clean sheet record this tournament.
The Red Devils owe their brief come back to a late stoppage time goal from Bayer Leverkusen winger Son Heung Min. The former Hamburg man lifted the ball over Aussie goalkeeper Mat Ryan to equalise, after Ki Sung Yueng released him with deft ball.
But the hosts were not going to bow out on home soil without a fight. Tomi Juric wrestled out of a challenge inside the penalty box late on in the first half of extra time to slide in a ball for James Troisi. The former Melbourne Victory man slotted home the winner from close range after it was spilled by Kim Jin-hyeon, to claim the Socceroos’ first trophy in Asian football.
Luongo break through tournament
Massimo Luongo came into the Asian Cup on the back of securing a place at last years 2014 World Cup, however, playing a limited role. The former Tottenham youngster has continued to impress in the tournament on home soil with multiple man of the match performances and goals to boot.
The Swindon man completes the tournament contributing the most goals in the tournament with six (two goals and four assists). The most telling contribution from Luongo was scoring the early goal to break the Red Devils defensive record.
The breakthrough came from Luongo making a neat little swerve outside the area to find space to shoot on goal, beating Korean goalkeeper Kim Jin Hyeon for the first time this competition
“That’s the most dangerous when you pick up the ball in the hole and run at defenders – especially if they’re tired,” Massimo Luongo on his goal.
“I enjoyed it,” he ended.
The Socceroo recently rejected a move to Turkey opting to stay at Swindon Town who look likely to gain promotion into the Championship. He seems very keen to continue with Swindon and help them achieve promotion.
“Short term get Swindon promoted and focus on them. I’m not worried about getting a move. I’m not too troubled with [the] club situation,” Luongo said.
Luongo admits being speechless on winning the Asian Cup, and believes it was a collective effort.
“No words can describe [it], everyone did their job,” he said.
Ange Postecoglou spoke about first watching Massimo Luongo at Swindon.
“I was cursing him, it was a windy old day, I thought why couldn’t he play for Barcelona or Real Madrid!” Postecoglou jokes.
“I realised part of the whole regeneration was casting the net wide, we knew [Luongo] was a guy who deserved an opportunity.
“He’s played a lot more in this tournament than I thought [he would] at the start of the month.”
Socceroo supporting cast finally shows up
There have been questions surrounding the Socceroo attack since the retirement of Mark Viduka, and the increasing reliance on Tim Cahill. The 35-year-old had to bear the brunt of the attacking responsibilities, and when Cahill wasn’t scoring his presence alone created opportunities for others.
In the latter stages of the game when there was no Cahill to get Australia out of jail, the much talked about Tomi Juric came to the rescue. The Western Sydney Wanderers’ striker chased what looked to be a lost cause to slide in a low cross for Belgium based Socceroos winger James Troisi who rattled the ball into the back of the net.
Before the link-up between Juric and Troisi, the attacking combinations down the wing had been quite tame. Mathew Leckie having another one of his hardworking performances with little end product and Robbie Kruse failing to make an impact before becoming injured.
South Korea fall at the final hurdle again
South Korea continue their stretch without a victory in the Asian Cup stumbling at the final hurdle against Australia. The ascendency was with Korea late on but a defensive error from Kim Jin-su handed Juric a chance to find Troisi in on goal.
The defeat marks the Red Devils fourth consecutive defeat in an Asian Cup final since their last victory in 1960. The side has had their mentality questioned by coach Ulrich Stielike earlier in the competition, but with a spotless record and without conceding a goal before the final those concerns weren’t taken with a grain of salt.
After the quarterfinal victory against Uzbekistan, Korea coach Stielike referenced mental problems in his sides’ gameplay.
“We saw one more time in the first half [against Uzbekistan] we have a lot of mental problems when we play [under] a lot of pressure,” the Korea coach said.
After their final defeat Stielike said he was satisfied with the performance saying “Korea can be proud of their boys”
“Even if we took two games, I’m very satisfied with the defensive work,” Stielike said.
“We were naive with the second goal, I think we could’ve cleared the ball.
“This [composure] is what is missing in this team, this will come step by step, and we need a little bit more time.”