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Asian Cup 2011 Review
The 15th Asian Cup tournament is over and congratulations to Japan who won their 4th title after beating pre-competition favourites Australia 1-0 after extra-time in the final. The Japanese were worthy winners for this time they aligned their impressive technique and organisation with a spirit that ensured that they never knew when they were beaten. Late goals in the group matches against Jordan and Syria saw them top the group, while in the quarter-finals they netted an injury-time winner against hosts Qatar and then held their nerve in the penalty shoot out against rivals South Korea in the semis to make the final. There, despite being outplayed for much of the game, Lee scored the winner in the 109th minute to deprive the Aussies of their first ever Asian title. Coach Zaccheroni must be delighted, especially as he left many of his top stars at home and now the Blue Samurai can look forward to the Copa America in July. But what about the rest of the tournament? What was the good, the bad and the ugly of Qatar 2011?
Of course, Japan was good but there were many plaudits for the performances of Jordan who managed to defeat their powerful neighbour Saudi Arabia as well as drawing with Japan in the group stages to qualify for the quarter-finals where they eventually lost out to Uzbekistan. It was also good for Korean striker Koo Ja-Cheol as he ended as top scorer of the tournament with 5 goals, though this was somewhat tarnished by the fact that he missed one of the penalties in the shoot-out against Japan in the semi-final. Though it is rather patronising we should say well done to India for managing to score three goals during their short stay in Qatar, no points however.
How about bad? Well Saudi Arabia, three-times winners of the trophy, finished bottom of their group with no points and a 0-5 thrashing against Japan to their name, while China yet again disappointed and failed to make the knock-out stage. Of course, after the decision to award Qatar the 2022 World Cup the world was watching to see how this Gulf nation would perform hosting this tournament. Technically sound but with little colour or emotion – a paltry 2,000 fans watched powerhouses of the region Saudi Arabia an Japan play their group match, while the fiasco in the final when 3,000 fans were not allowed into the stadium shows that questions remain over FIFA’s decision.
Ugly? Well, the monkey celebrations of Korean midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung after he scored against Japan in the semi-final was not very pretty at all. The Japanese were angered as they felt he was being disrespectful to them though Ki said he wanted to highlight racism against him in Scotland – why wait until the semi-final against your country’s great rivals to make your point though?
Overall, then a tournament that did not set the pulses racing but at least the best side won. Whether the Blue Samurai can retain their title in Australia in 4 years time, however, is another thing.
were worthy winners: They deserved to win
they aligned: They connected, they joined
they netted an injury-time winner: they scored a late goal to win
held their nerve: They did not panic
to deprive: To prevent, to stop
plaudits: Positive reviews and comments
tarnished: Marred, spoiled
thrashing: A heavy defeat
a paltry : Not many at all, very few
did not set the pulses racing : Not very exciting at all