Asian Cup sees massive shocks in quarters

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2015-1-26 22:58:08

As the Asian Cup moves into the semifinals stage, it already looks as if it will be a memorable tournament.

Nobody could have predicted the upsets and action as the defending champions were knocked out in the quarter­finals while war-torn Iraq found the will to move on.

The first round was a routine affair but the quarterfinals were anything but.

Iraq, surprise winners in 2007, surprised again by beating Iran in a 3-3 affair that ­required 16 penalty kicks.

Unfortunately, South Korea put an end to Iraq's fairy tale by beating them in the first semi.

A revitalized China threw off years of embarrassment to win all three group games before succumbing to Australia and a rampant Tim Cahill.

But the biggest shock had to be defending champions and strong favorites Japan losing to the UAE on penalties.

Japan cruised through the group stage undefeated without conceding any goals, so they were understandably stunned when the UAE scored in the seventh minute. Japan fought back to equalize in the 81st minute, but they had depleted their energy and could not make a breakthrough in extra time.

To make things worse, it was their two biggest stars Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa who missed their penalties. After a poor World Cup last year, this tournament was the Blue ­Samurai's chance to make amends and they wilted.

As good as the UAE's young team was, Australia will fancy their chances, especially given that the UAE may be exhausted after having played extra time.

This is the first Asian Cup held in Australia, which only joined the Asian soccer body in 2006. There were high hopes that the tournament would ramp up interest in soccer nationwide. While the Australian ­soccer team has performed well, qualifying for World Cups and reaching the Asian Cup final in 2011, it still lags behind the country's cricket and rugby teams in popularity.

Already, over 500,000 fans have attended the games, ­highly impressive for a country with a population of 23 million. This is helped by the fact that Australia has diverse diasporas from China, Iran and other Asian nations.

This shows Australia can hold a successful soccer event and underlines that the country would have been able to hold a very good World Cup, if it had won the bid to host the 2022 event. Instead, FIFA in all their "wisdom" decided that Qatar would be better and we can only imagine what would be.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.

Posted in: Extra Time

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