South Korea vs Australia | Saturday 31 January | Sydney | 11:00
The 2015 Asian Cup in Australia reaches its finale as the hosts take on South Korea in the final on Saturday. South Korea and Australia booked their places in the final after respectively beating Iraq and the United Arab Emirates in their semi-final ties. These sides were in the same group during the round robin stages with South Korea beating the Aussies 1-0 just two weeks back. South Korea won the first two editions of the Asian Cup, in 1956 and 1960. Australia are yet to win the tournament after joining the Asian Federation just eight years ago but were finalists in the last edition in 2011.
To Win (90mins)
South Korea 28/10
To Qualify / To Lift Trophy
South Korea 29/20
South Korea remain in the hunt for their first Asian Cup trophy since 1960 after overcoming Iraq with a comfortable 2-0 victory in the first semi-final. Goals from Lee Jeong-hyeop and Kim Young-gwon early in each half in Sydney quelled any Iraqi hopes of reliving their 2007 Asian Cup success. The Taegeuk Warriors finished top of Group A, winning all three games, despite being drawn in the same group as the hosts. Their defensive capabilities have been the backbone for their great run, having not conceded a single goal in the tournament thus far. All three group wins were 1-0 victories while their knockout wins over Uzbekistan (went into extra-time) and Iraq finished with 2-0 scorelines. They have failed to fulfil their potential in recent years but there is a growing confidence in the current camp and rightly so. The first two wins against Oman and Kuwait were unconvincing but doing the same against Australia in Brisbane really lifted spirits and belief. Swansea’s Ki Sung-Yueng pulls the strings for South Korea, operating from deep in the midfield. His calm, reassuring presence in defensive midfield and his near perfect passing helps initiate Korean attacks, and he is a threat to score from long-range.
Australia booked their place in the Asian Cup final with a 2-0 victory over United Arab Emirates, who shocked favourites Japan in their previous round. Australia stunned UAE with two goals in the first fourteen minutes with defenders Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson claiming the early goals to take the Socceroos to their second successive Asian Cup final. The Aussies lost to Japan in the final four years ago but now have another chance to claim their first continental title at their third attempt. Putting their 1-0 loss to South Korea aside, Australia performed emphatically to win their other two group games with a 4-0 victory over Kuwait followed by a 4-1 thrashing of Oman. Tim Cahill has netted three times at this year’s Asian Cup, including an overhead kick in his quarter-final brace against China, and his experience in the final will be key. The ex-Everton and current New York Red Bulls attacking midfielder is a player for the big occasion and a win here will cap his international career off in perfect style.
VERDICT: Draw 19/10
While South Korea have looked superior in defence, Australia have only conceded two goals in their five games – one against Oman in a 4-1 victory and the other in their 1-0 loss to South Korea. In attack South Korea have fallen short compared to their opponents who have scored twelve goals, seven more than the Koreans have if you exclude their two extra-time goals. However, after such brave displays to get to the final South Korea will look to keep their defensive discipline and the draw looks the most likely outcome over 90 minutes.