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Gus Keri

A life-long Liverpool fan who resides in New York City and also supports the New York Red Bulls.


Asian Cup Final – The Triumphant Rise of Soccer

Written by on January 29, 2011 | 42 Comments »
Posted in Asian Cup, Australia, Japan

The meeting between Japan and Australia in the Asian Cup final has more meanings than just a game to decide the best in the AFC.

A couple of decades ago, both of the Japanese and the Australian soccer were mired in mediocrity. Like soccer in North America, they both had to play second fiddle to other sports; baseball and martial arts in the land of the rising sun and Aussie-rules football, rugby and cricket downunder.

But the increase in the popularity and the economic potential of soccer led to massive changes in both countries. Like in the USA, the formation of professional leagues was a huge catalyst for growing the game.

In Japan, they formed the J-league in 1993 and since then the sport took off very fast. They qualified to every world cup since their debut in 1998 and reached the second round in 2002 and 2010. Also they made it to the Asian Cup finals every time since their first appearance in 1988.

This is their 4th appearance in the final in the last 6 tournaments and they are undefeated in the title games. They are seeking a record fourth cup.

In Australia, the situation was a little different. There were other hindrances to the development of soccer.

Because of the lack of opportunity to play professionally, their players had to travel across the world to ply their trade. Most of them ended up in Europe. This had put a lot of strain on players because of the long trip.

Also, as a member of Oceania, they have to contend with playing very inferior opponents, with the exception of New Zealand. Many European clubs would not release their players for such useless games.

As a member of Oceania, they won the continental championship 4 times in 6 attempts (between 1980 and 2004), but when it comes to the world cup, they managed to qualify to the finals only twice (in 1974 and 2006).

After the formation of the A-league in 2004, Australia successfully lobbied with FIFA to move to AFC in 2006. Initially, some Asian countries voiced their opposition but then, FIFA rewarded them with easier WC playoff game. The fifth Asian team, now, plays the Oceania representative instead of the CONCACAF fourth team.

It was a win win situation to both. AFC benefited economically and Australia benefited with better standard and worldwide exposure. The meteoric rise of Australian soccer culminated in reaching the Asian cup final for the first time in only their second attempt.

Australia is going to the final on a high after they disposed of Uzbekistan 6-0, but they will have a difficult task against Japan.

Japan’s fluid attacking soccer that features Barcelona-like style of short and low passes with fast and energetic movement on and off the ball will be too much to handle for the Aussies.

Tim Cahill, who started wonderfully, is not the same after his injury against Bahrain. Luckily, though, Harry Kewell has picked up his game and he is playing very well and scoring goals (3 in 5 games).

But if they win the cup, it would be because of a very organized defense and a great goalkeeping. They allowed only 1 goal in 5 games, by far the tournament best. Japan, on the other hand, allowed 6 goals.

On the offensive side of matter, they both have 13 goals in 6 games. Japan apparently lost the service of Kagawa with a broken foot. They again have to hope that Okazaki and Maeda will step it up and help Honda and company reach the summit.

They met only once before at the Asian cups. Japan won 4-3 on PKs after drawing 1-1 in 2007 QF. The winners this time will represent Asia in the confederation cup 2013 in Brazil. Both already qualified to Australia 2015.

A day earlier, there will be the small issue of deciding the third place team.

Unlike the World Cups, AFC had decided to make this game more meaningful. The winners of this game will qualify directly to Australia 2015.

It’s a chance for Uzbekistan to redeem itself after the demoralizing defeat by Australia. It’s also a chance for South Korea to vent some frustration from their exit at the hand of their arch nemesis.

It is the Uzbeks first third place game but the Koreans are in it for the third time in the last 4 cups. They won twice before (2000 and 2007). They also ended third in 1964 when it was played as a round robin final. Park Ji Sung may sit out this game for minor injury.

They have never met before at the Asian cups.


Third Place – South Korea vs. Uzbekistan: Friday; 10 am EST

Final – Australia vs. Japan: Saturday; 10 am EST

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42 responses to “Asian Cup Final – The Triumphant Rise of Soccer”

  1. Theo van Nasregas says:


    Nice article but wasn’t the main reason that Australia changed Confederations because of an easier route to the WC? When they were in Oceania they always had to try to qualify via a home and away v 5th in CONMEBOL. That’s a tie that they were always going to be second best in.

  2. Except when they beat Uruguay in 2005?

  3. Gus Keri says:


    It could be true that Australia got tired trying to qualify through playoff.

    But AFC could have said “no”. Nobody could force them. It’s kind of they both wanted it.

  4. Soccerlogical says:

    As Japan are without Kagawa, Australia should prevail.

  5. Theo van Nasregas says:

    By that, I obviously meant a tie that they were always going to be the underdog in (for absolute precision). Much like LFC’s UCL runs of both MMV & MMVII. But I’m digressing yet again.


    what is your take on the reports of the bid from Chelsea for Torres.they say LFC has turned it down.with the tension with Mourinho in Spain any chance Kenny would step down and let Jose take over? that would make some kind of headlines for Fleet street.Australia 3/2 over Japan.

  7. Gus Keri says:


    I think the main stars of the team; Torres, Gerrard, Reina and Dalglish will stay at least until the end of the season.

    After that, it depends on where LFC finishes. If Dalglish’s revival of the team turned out to be temporary and the team performed badly from now on, then the possibilbity of coaching change is there, of course.

    Is it possible that they may sell Torres and use his transfer money to build a different team? yes. But this only depend on how the next manager see thing.

    Is it possible that Jose might come aboard? yes. If things go sour in Real Madrid.

    I could be wrong, but I see Torres and Dalglish staying beyond this season.

  8. Gus Keri says:

    South Korea – Uzbekistan: 3-1 (at the half)

    The Koreans are dominating with some wonderful soccer.

    If Japan the Barcelona of Asia, then South Korea is the
    Arsenal of Asia. Their beautiful goals have the Arsenal style.

    there is also an intersting race for the golden boots. Koo Ja Cheol added anothr goal today. Here are the leaders:

    1- Koo Ja Cheol: 5 goals
    2- Ji Dond Won: 4
    2- Abdullatif (Bahrain): 4
    4- Harry Kewell: 3
    4- Okazaki: 3
    4- Maeda: 3

  9. AntonioSaucedo says:

    What an exciting tournament! The Hasebe-Kagawa-Honda triunvirat is one of the best not just in Asia. Australia have a few stars –Cahill, Kewell– that make it very competitive. I’m looking forward to watching the final.

    The EPL Archives showed a Leeds U-Man U game last night. Man, Kewell was something else, wasn’t he? And Viduka. What a monster! That Leeds team was one of the best EPL side I’v ever seen. I can still name the whole line-up. Classi

  10. greg mclauchlin says:


    Who have been the stand out or break out players apart from the usual suspects (Kagawa,Honda,Kewell etc) in the tournament?

  11. Gus Keri says:

    South Korea – Uzbekistan: 3-2 (final)

    South Korea in third place for the third time in the last 4 touranment.

    Their overall record in 15 Asian cups: winners (twice), runner-ups (3 times) and third place (4 times)

    They joined Japan and Australia in the next Asian cup 2015 in Australia.

    Uzbeksitan did better in the second half and showed why the Australia collapse was uncharacteristic.

    Geynrikh added two goas for 3 goals total.

  12. Gus Keri says:


    I agree with you on that Leeds team.
    Harry Kewell was on fire. This is why Liverpool bought him. But Unfortunately, he suffered multiple injuries over there and never showed his true form for Liveprool.

  13. GO FOREST YOU REDS says:

    congrats on the Suarez pick up he is a big will the fans react to Torres asking to be sold to Chelsea?if i was a fan this would drive me nuts.for the first half he was not good i know injuries but still,and then now we get a little up turn in form and he wants out.if they sell him it will be in the summer to La Liga.

  14. Gus Keri says:


    I answered your question “above”

  15. GO FOREST YOU REDS says:

    let me try this that the fans know Torres is up for a transfer to Chelsea how will the fans deal with it?

  16. Gus Keri says:


    I don’t see a problem here.
    Chelsea had an offer and Liverpool rejected it.
    Liverpool fans got what they want.

    If you are asking: “what if it happens tomorrow?”
    I, for one, will be very unhappy.

  17. Theo van Nasregas says:


    With the addition of the man from Uruguay and if there are no more changes during the transfer window, who do you think KD’s best XI is? Or put another way, do you see KD utilizing Suarez and Torres together and changing the team’s shape? What would you like to see wrt team & formation selection?

    Are you disappointed that Babel has left? I always thought he could have made a difference @ LFC but managers lost patience with him.

    See, a Gooner can show interest in LFC. Especially when you lads host The Evil Empire. I’ll be a Scouser that day mate. Shame you couldn’t pull off the deed in the Cup.

  18. Gus Keri says:

    Babel was very incosistent. There were few brilliant moments (Like what you and the other gooners remember the most; that UCL game) but in general he didn’t deliver a lot.

    I thought Maxi with his movement on the left side was better option.

    In regard to Saurez, the main issue, here, that we now have a reliable coverage, in case of injuries to Torres who, as we all know, is very succeptable to them.

    But how he will partner with Torres, is a good question. there no reason not to believe that they can work together.

    I believe Dalglish will introduce him gradually and see how he fits in the formation. He might, initially, come on as a second half substitute to play with Torres. I might see him as replacement to Kuyt or Maxi.

  19. Gus Keri says:

    Liverpool officially rejected Torres request for transfer to Chelsea:

  20. Gus Keri says:

    I wonder if this is like Rooney and Tevez’s attempt to get a better contract.

    Torres can leave if he pays his severance money which is 50 Million pounds. Chelsea offered 35 Million pounds, which make me even wonder if Liverpool trying to get all the money.

  21. Theo van Nasregas says:


    A skeptical and cynical Gooner might play devil’s advocate and say that the transfer request is a simple case of a world class player (Torres) wishing to play in future UCL matches.

    Obviously you follow LFC more closely than I, but I am of the belief that Babel offered a combination of pace and goal scoring threat greater than that of both Maxi and Eggnog. This version of Maxi (@LFC) is not the version of Maxi I saw in La Liga. At times, Maxi even seems to be a liability. I believe that Babel has the potential to be better than Kuyt but, unfortunately, it has yet to come to fruition.

  22. Gus Keri says:

    22 goals in 146 games. How is this goal scoring threat?

  23. Theo van Nasregas says:

    I said threat. That’s why I used the word. Production is another matter. And to get that kind of production the player needs both the faith and minutes from the manager. Babel never got that from LFC managers and it’s vexing to me as to the reason why.

    Anyway, I would have played him ahead of guys like Maxi and Eggnog. Both of whom I don’t see lighting it up exactly. And stats don’t always tell the whole story either.

  24. Gus Keri says:


    OK.. I will go with it.

    He wasn’t a threat either and that why he is gone.
    Both Maxi and Ngog are more threat than he is. And in case of Ngog, much more threat.

  25. Gus Keri says:

    Australia – Japan: 0-0 (at the half)

    Overall, a disappointing half dominated by defenses,

    A slight advantage to Australia so far. On the defensive end, they crowded the midfield area to prevent Japan from playing their game, severely reducing their threat on gaol. On the offensive end, they are relying on long balls to the Japanese penalty area, which created very few dangerous opportunities.

    This is the worst display by Japan in this cup. More credits to the Aussies than to the absent Kagawa.

  26. Gus Keri says:

    Australia – Japan: 0-0 (at 90 minutes)
    To 30 minutes extra times

    Game improved in the second half with more attacking from the Japanese side which created some good opportunities. Okazaki missed a glorious chance.

    Australia had good chances also, mostly on the counterattack. Kewell drew a great save from Kawashima.

  27. Gus Keri says:

    Japan – Australia: 1-0 (full time)

    Japan won a record 4th Asian cup

    And what a final 30 minutes. full of excitement.

    Tadanari Lee, in his second appeance only, scored his first international goal and what a majestic strike it was. It is not only the best goal in this cup, it is a strong candidate for the goal of the year.

    Hard luck for Austrlaia but overall, Japan deserved to win.

  28. Gus Keri says:

    The updated list of champions:

    1- Japan: 4 Asian cups
    2- Iran: 3
    2- Saudi Arabia: 3
    4- South Korea: 2
    5- Kuwait: 1
    5- Iraq: 1
    5- Israel: 1

  29. Gus Keri says:

    Honda won the MVP of the cup

    I think Japan’s winning swayed the voters. I thought there were better players like Park Ji Sung and Schwazer and Ahmedov

  30. Theo van Nasregas says:

    Well, it’s finally over. With the Japanese victory, we avoid the confusing headline you alluded to earlier, ‘Australia is the best team in Asia’. A small victory today for geography. Glasses raised.

    All kidding aside though, thanks Gus for your coverage of the event. I’m sure many would echo the same.

  31. Gus Keri says:


    You’re welcome. It is really my pleasure.

    And thanks to you and all those who have read my articles and followed the updates in the comment section.

    Special thanks to the FSR crew; the visible and the unvisible. It really meant a lot to me.

    By the way, prepare yourself for another geographic delema.
    This Summer you will read a headline saying:

    “Japan is the champions of South America”.

    I am sure you are aware that Japan is playing in the Copa America.

  32. Gus Keri says:

    Of course, the biggest thanks go to you, Bobby.
    It was a tremendous honor.

  33. 光る says:

    Gus- I’m looking forward to Copa America for sure, always enjoy seeing invitees to usually isolated groups, especially when said teams get a chance to shine. No matter how that one turns out, I’m sure it’ll be a blast to watch.

  34. Theo van Nasregas says:

    I assume that Japan is making a guest appearance in the event much like Mexico does quite often. Guest appearances in continental championships are not offensive to Mr. Geography. Permanent moves and WC qualification routes are.

    As for Japan actually winning the Copa, Gus, don’t hold your breath. You are aware that Brasil and Argentina play in that competition aren’t you?

    Speaking of South American footy. Has anyone seen that Ronaldo on Corinthians lately? Looks like the lad ate two goats and a chicken. With that amount of girth it’s only a matter of time before he blows his knee again, unfortunately. He looks like a T-Rex.

  35. GO FOREST YOU REDS says:

    thanks for the coverage you did a great job and even had time to answer my LFC questions.i know i am in the minority but i think LFC would be better off without Torres just as i have said MAN UTD would be better off without Rooney.200k a week would go along way for some quality i said thanks again for your time and knowledge.GO FOREST beat the HAMMERS.

  36. Gus Keri says:


    I agree with you. Copa America this year is going to be a special one. 7 of the 12 participating teams were in the round of 16 in the last World Cup.

  37. Gus Keri says:


    Of course I am aware.
    More important, the games are in Argentina.
    I think this is going to be the true international coming out party for Messi

    About Ronaldo, it’s a sad story. I understand that he has some thyroid problem which has contributed to his weight gain.
    I wish him the best.

  38. Gus Keri says:


    “i know i am in the minority but i think LFC would be better off without Torres ”

    This is a silver lining. You might say the money will help bring two or three other players where they are needed more.

    I don’t subscribe to this theory. I would prefer to keep him and add to the team.
    One negative thing about the team in the past few years is the tendency to lose good players and not being able to replace them.

  39. Gus Keri says:


    I appreciate you comments and thank you for the nice words

  40. Theo van Arshavregas says:


    Thyroid problem? Did he eat that too?

    I hear that this is the day that Torres might go to the Blues and make LFC blue. I hope for your club’s sake they don’t sell him. It would constitute a new level of Liverfoolishness as your club is highly unlikely to replace such a player. Suarez is no Torres. And players of the calibre of Torres aren’t going to want to play for LFC when they keeping seeing good players leaving the club. And when the best player leaves the club it is never a good sign. I hope for both your sake and LFC’s sake he stays and somehow forms a good partnership with Suarez.

  41. Gus Keri says:

    I am keeping my fingers crossed

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