Puneet Varma

2015 AFC Asian Cup Final

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Referee  Alireza Faghani (Iran)
Man of the match  Trent Sainsbury
Attendance  76,385
Date  31 January 2015
Venue  Stadium Australia
Event  2015 AFC Asian Cup
2015 AFC Asian Cup Final httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu
Weather  Partly cloudy 22 °C (72 °F) 63% humidity
Champion  Australia national soccer team
Similar  2007 AFC Asian Cup Final, 2011 AFC Asian Cup Final, 2015 UEFA Champions League F, 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup Final, 2014 AFC Challenge Cup

The 2015 AFC Asian Cup Final was a football match which took place on 31 January 2015 at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Australia, to determine the winner of 2015 AFC Asian Cup. It was played between South Korea and host nation Australia. Australia won the match 2–1 in extra time. Australia, being the winner of the cup final, gained entry in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, which is to be hosted by Russia.

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Before the match, South Korea had reached the AFC Asian Cup final three times (1972, 1980 and 1988), finishing runners-up in all attempts since a knockout system was introduced. However, prior to such a system, South Korea had won the tournament twice (1956 and 1960). Australia had reached one final (2011) since moving to the Asian Football Confederation from the Oceania Football Confederation in 2006.

Background

Prior to the tournament, the two finalists had previously met each other 26 times, with South Korea winning nine games and Australia ten. The two sides first met on 14 November 1967 in the final of the 1967 Quoc Khanh Cup, held in South Vietnam. Australia won the match 3–2 and secured the nation's first honour in international football. The last meeting between the two teams, a 0–0 draw, took place on 20 July 2013, at the 2013 EAFF East Asian Cup in South Korea. Australia, who began the 2015 Asian Cup as one of the favourites, was ranked 100 in the FIFA World Rankings and tenth among AFC teams, while South Korea was ranked 69 overall, and third among AFC teams.

South Korea entered the 2015 Asian Cup as two-time Asian champions, having won the first two instalments of the tournament. However, the 2015 final was South Korea's first appearance in the final in 26 years and only their third appearance in the final since a knockout system was introduced. South Korea was first crowned champions of Asia in the inaugural 1956 edition of the Asian Cup, held in Hong Kong. There, the competition was formatted as a round-robin tournament between four teams with no final, and South Korea won the tournament after just three matches. South Korea successfully defended their title in 1960 on home soil. It was not until 1972 that South Korea would get the chance to contest the Asian title again, in the tournament's first ever final after the change to a knockout format. South Korea lost the match against Iran 2–1 in extra time. South Korea again failed to win the final match in 1980, when they lost 3–0 against host nation Kuwait. In 1988, South Korea contested the final against Saudi Arabia in Qatar. After remaining scoreless at the end of extra time, the match was decided in a penalty shoot-out, with the Saudis taking home the title through a 4–3 win.

The 2015 final was Australia's second consecutive time contesting an Asian Cup final out of only three appearances since moving to the Asian Football Confederation from the Oceania Football Confederation in 2006. In 2011, Australia lost to Japan 1–0 in extra time.

Stadium Australia was announced as the venue of the 2015 final on 27 March 2013, along with the announcement of the five stadiums used in the tournament. The venue was chosen in preference to Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, which was instead selected to host the opening match of the tournament between Australia and Kuwait. The stadium chosen for the final had the largest capacity of those used in the tournament, with a capacity crowd of 84,000. It was first opened in 1999, and was built to host the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The venue has played host to a number of Sydney's major sporting events, and it was used for seven matches in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, including four group matches, a quarter-final and semi-final match, as well as the final.

Route to the final

Both South Korea and Australia were drawn into Group A of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, along with lower ranked sides Oman and Kuwait. After winning all three group matches, South Korea finished first in the group. Host nation Australia finished second in the group to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament.

South Korea's first match against Oman was played at Canberra Stadium. A single goal by Cho Young-cheol in the 46th minute during injury time was enough for the South Korean's to take all three points. South Korea played their second match against Kuwait in Canberra. A goal by Nam Tae-hee saw the game end 1–0. In their final group match South Korea played Australia at a sold out Brisbane Stadium. The match would decide the final standings of the group, with South Korea needing a win to finish top in the group. A goal from striker Lee Jung-hyup in the 33rd minute gave South Korea their third 0–1 win in the tournament. South Korea progressed to the quarter-final stage to face Group B runner-up Uzbekistan. After a goalless 90 minutes, the match was taken into extra time, where Son Heung-min found the net twice to end the game 2–0. In the semi-finals, South Korea took on Iraq in Stadium Australia. Goals by Lee Jung-hyup and Kim Young-gwon ended the match 2–0, with South Korea progressing to the 2015 final.

Australia's Asian Cup run started in the opening match of the tournament against Kuwait. Hussain Fadhel's eighth-minute header had briefly dampened spirits at a sold out Melbourne Rectangular Stadium only for Massimo Luongo to set up Tim Cahill on the 33rd minute to equalise with his 37th international goal. After Luongo headed home his first for Australia at the end of the first half, a penalty from captain Mile Jedinak on the 62nd minute and a late strike from James Troisi secured all three points for Australia. In their second match, Australia played Oman in Sydney. Goals from Matt McKay, Robbie Kruse, Tomi Juric, and a penalty scored by Mark Milligan gave Australia a 0–4 win. After failing to secure any points from their final group match against South Korea, Australia next faced Group B winners China PR in the quarter-finals in Brisbane Stadium. Cahill opened the scoring shortly after the half-time break before doubling the lead midway through the second-half, ensuring Australia reached the last four. In the semi-finals, Australia faced United Arab Emirates in Newcastle Stadium. A 2–0 result with goals from Trent Sainsbury and Jason Davidson sent Australia into their second consecutive Asian Cup final.

Pre-match

Individual match tickets for the final were sold directly by the AFC via its website from 3 June 2014. The final was also included the Sydney "Venue Pack", which gave access to every match of the tournament played in Sydney. 76,000 seats were made available for the final clash, with roughly 7,000 seats kept by the AFC to accommodate media and other parties. Prices varied from $39 to $150. 66,000 tickets had been sold for the final prior to Australia's semi-final match in 2.7 minutes, with more than 10,000 additional tickets sold within 1.4 minutes of the win for Australia.

Iranian Alireza Faghani was named as the referee of the final, together with fellow countrymen Reza Sokhandan and Mohammad Reza Abolfazli as the assistant referees. The trio had officiated in four 2015 Asian Cup matches, including group matches between Saudi Arabia and China PR, Kuwait and South Korea and Iraq and Japan, and the quarter-final match between Japan and United Arab Emirates. Faghani had previously taken charge of a number of international matches, with the most notable being the 2009 AFC President's Cup Final, 2010 AFC Challenge Cup Final and the 2014 AFC Champions League Final first leg match.

The closing ceremony of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup took place at the Stadium Australia, before the final match of the tournament. As with the opening ceremony of the tournament, the closing ceremony featured a performance by Australian DJ, singer and dancer Havana Brown.

Summary

Stielike made one change to the line-up that saw off Iraq in the semi-finals, calling up Jang Hyun-soo to partner Ki Sung-yueng in the middle to allow Park Joo-ho to sit in front of Kim Jin-su on the left, while Ivan Franjic was passed fit for an unchanged Australian side. The game opened at a frantic pace and, by the end of the half, Australia had taken the lead against the run of play after South Korea had spurned several opportunities to put themselves on the scoreboard. It was Son Heung-min who caused the greatest threat to the home side’s goal, volleying just wide in the 37th minute after impressive work down the left from Park Joo-ho and Kim Jin-su while, less than a minute later, the South Korean was denied what looked a certain goal by Luongo’s outstretched foot. Tim Cahill had earlier forced Kim Jin-hyeon into action in the South Korean goal, the keeper diving to his left to push the Australian’s effort around the post after holding off the challenge of Kwak Tae-hwi, who had sent his own header just wide mere seconds later at the other end.

But with barely a minute left in the half, Luongo struck to put Australia in front. Trent Sainsbury’s ball into the feet of Luongo allowed him to turn and beat Ki Sung-yueng before hitting a low, unstoppable right-foot effort beyond Kim Jin-hyeon. The South Koreans were forced to push for the equaliser as the second half wore on, and a disciplined Australian defence kept them at bay until, a minute into stoppage time, Son Heung-min latched on to Ki Sung-yueng’s pass to fire beyond Mat Ryan and send the game into extra-time. But Troisi put the Australians back in front in the 105th minute when he was first to react after Kim Jin-hyeon pushed Tomi Juric’s centre towards Jason Davidson back into play, and the midfielder fired the ball high into the net to seal the win and see Australia crowned champions of Asia.

Notable guests and television viewers

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was invited to attend but did not due to vote counting for the 2015 Queensland state election taking place at the same time. Abbott had already attended the opening match of the tournament between Australia and Kuwait in Melbourne. Other invited guests present for the final include FIFA President Sepp Blatter, AFC President Salman Al-Khalifa and Chairman of Football Federation Australia Frank Lowy. Blatter and Al-Khalifa delivered the trophy to the champions in the awards ceremony, amidst boos from the crowd.

The match was broadcast live in Australia by the ABC and Fox Sports. The ABC’s coverage of the match averaged 1.8 million viewers nationally for the entire match, with a total reach of 5.3 million Australians overall. The ABC’ peak audience was 3 million viewers watching at 22:27 AEDT, in the final minute of extra time. The game also averaged 416,000 for Fox Sports’ coverage.

References

2015 AFC Asian Cup Final Wikipedia


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