Football – Asian Cup: Postecoglou hails ‘courageous’ Socceroos
- Updated: February 1, 2015
February 1, 2015: Australia coach Ange Postecoglou expressed his immense pride in his players after the hosts claimed their first AFC Asian Cup with a 2-1 extra-time victory over Korea Republic in Saturday’s final.
Midfielder Massimo Luongo – later named MVP of the tournament – opened the scoring at Stadium Australia just before the half-time interval, but Son Heung-min was on target with a 91st-minute leveller to take the tie into extra-time.
Halfway through the additional half-hour, James Troisi put Australia back in front and ultimately secured the Asian crown, as the Socceroos exorcised the demons of four years ago, when they lost to Japan in the Qatar 2011 final following Tadanari Lee’s extra-time winner.
“I am super proud of everyone – the players, the staff and everyone. I couldn’t be happier. It was a different kind of game. It was tough, it was a final and you have to grind it out, and no one knows better than me it never goes to script. There’s always twists, but the courage the players showed was enormous,” Postecoglou said.
“My only concern was that because we conceded so late, the boys would be so heartbroken they couldn’t pick themselves up in extra-time, but I knew we’d finish stronger. It was just a matter of taking our chance when it came, and we did. I’m super proud of them.”
Postecoglou is now hoping the Socceroos can go on and challenge the world’s best, starting at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia, where they will be Asia’s representative in 2017.
“Football is a great game, the greatest in the world, and hopefully us Aussies can take on the best in the world because I have a real belief in this whole group and in Aussie football and we’ll move on from here.”
Luongo, whose father is of Italian heritage and mother is of Indonesian heritage, won the Most Valuable Player Award presented by Toyota after several eye-catching displays as well as goals in the hosts’ first and last matches of the tournament.
“If anything it has shown what type of player I am and in the right team I can shine,” he said. “I’m always confident in myself, but this is just the icing on the cake.”
The 22-year-old, who plays for Swindon Town in England’s third-tier League One, made his international debut last March. Luongo was included in the FIFA World Cup squad, but did not feature in Brazil and only became a regular in the starting line-up during the Asian Cup, where he opened the scoring in the final with a sweet 20-yard strike.
“It’s been a good one. I’m so thankful for what has happened at this tournament and all the boys did really well,” said Luongo, who joined the likes of Khodadad Azizi, Hiroshi Nanami and Keisuke Honda as Asian Cup MVPs.
“The fans delivered, there were almost 80,000, and the atmosphere was unbelievable. For me to be a part of it, part of the silverware that we got, is special and to get a goal is even more special. It’s like a dream.”
His impressive opener put the hosts ahead before half-time and Luongo admitted he had only one thing on his mind after a fine first touch from Trent Sainsbury’s pass had him running at Korea’s defence.
“It was a great ball from Trent and I was just hovering in the pocket. My first touch opened up straight away and I looked like I was running at the centrebacks, but all I had in my mind was to shoot,” he said.
“I was in the best position to shoot and I don’t want to give up that opportunity. When I see the centrebacks going back, I just want to take it, and it went in so I was happy. The boys were saying it bobbled up a bit, but I caught it sweetly and all I saw was it hit the back of the net.”
Source: WSG / AFC Asian Cup (www.afcasiancup.com); Editing by SportAsia