Well, it had to end. It’s funny because for once I don’t actually have much to say about the Asian Cup. Japan beat Australia in a very good 1-0 overtime nail biter. The Socceroos played better, but could not find the back of the net. Samurai Blue converted when it mattered most and now have a record four Asian Cups. The South Koreans’ souls have died just a little more.
Japan has dominated the Asian Cup now for quite some time, but as Australia proved today, there is a actually a real rival now (other than South Korea.) In four years, expect Australia (should they be able to find the talent) to be a favorite when the Asian Cup is in . . . Australia.
Both teams have a lot to be proud of, and for both it is a way to make up for disappointingly early exits from the World Cup. Japan have defended their title as Unofficial World Football Champion, which I am sure they care about deeply. Australia, well, this is going to hurt for a while. The past eight months have not exactly been kind to Australian sports–the early exit from the World Cup, a semifinal exit in the Women’s Rugby World Cup, annihilation by the All Blacks at the Tri-Nations, poor showings at the men’s and women’s basketball World Championships, losing to New Zealand at the 2010 Rugby League Four Nations, the disappointment of the 2022 World Cup bid, the Ashes, Sam Stosur’s early exit at the Australian Open (although Belgium’s “Aussie Kim” Clijsters won), and now this. Maybe the Aussies can turn their collective fortunes at the Cricket World Cup starting next month. If not, they always have the World (Field) Hockey World Cup win from last year. Fair dinkum.
Japan meanwhile has booked a spot for the oh-so-glorious 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil which will also feature Spain, Brazil, New Zealand (probably), the USA or Mexico (depending on which one wins the Gold Cup), the African country that wins the next African Cup of Nations, the non-Brazil South American team that places best at the Copa America, and the 2012 UEFA Euro Champion (or runner up if Spain wins.)
Now I will not think about the Asian Cup for four years as the (sorry, it’s true) more interesting continental tournaments approach (Gold Cup excluded), starting with this summer’s Copa America, which this year will ironically feature Japan.