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Football: Australia legend Neill named Captain Ambassador for 2015 Asian Cup

Lucas Neill is hoping it's third time lucky for the Socceroos in the AFC Asian Cup. Photo: WSG.

Lucas Neill is hoping it’s third time lucky for the Socceroos in the AFC Asian Cup. Photo: WSG.

August 27, 2013: Lucas Neill will crown his glittering Socceroos career by serving as the Captain Ambassador for AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015.


Neill’s appointment was announced in Sydney as the 500-day countdown began to the biggest football tournament ever held in Australia.


“I have long dreamed of a football event this big coming to Australian shores. I am passionate about growing the game in Australia and the AFC Asian Cup is a great opportunity for fans to see world-class football right in their backyard,” Neill said.


“To actually be part of it in the capacity of Captain Ambassador makes it doubly special for me. I feel very proud and deeply honoured. It’s like wearing the captain’s armband, but never having to take it off.”


Neill, a fixture in the green and gold for the past decade, is well placed to enhance the tournament’s profile. The 35-year-old Australian skipper has amassed 92 caps since making his national-team debut as an 18-year-old in 1996.


He commanded international attention with his sterling defensive performances at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany and led his country with distinction at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.


Frank Lowy, Chairman of the Asian Cup’s Local Organising Committee, said Neill was one of the most recognisable faces in Australian football, having played in the last two Asian Cup campaigns, including leading the Socceroos to the final at Qatar 2011.


“It is fitting that Lucas should be the face of the AFC Asian Cup as it comes to Australia for the first time,” Lowy said. “I am pleased Lucas has accepted this honour and I know as ambassador he will do his utmost to promote the Asian Cup both in Australia and throughout Asia.”


Michael Brown, CEO of the Local Organising Committee, said the tournament was the biggest sporting event in Asia and represented a key opportunity for Australian governments, business, tourism and sporting interests to engage with the continent.


“It is exciting to unveil the countdown clock to mark ‘500 Days to Go’ until the Asian Cup kicks off in Melbourne on January 9, 2015,” Brown said. “With Lucas Neill as our Captain Ambassador, we are confident we can spread the word about the Asian Cup to both traditional football fans and the wider community.”


Neill, who recently signed for Omiya Ardija in Japan, has been a stalwart of Australia’s World Cup qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014 and scored his first international goal with a header in the qualifier against Jordan in Melbourne in June.


However, there remains unfinished business for the Socceroos in the Asian Cup, after they bowed out in the quarter-finals in 2007 and lost 1-0 to Japan in extra-time in the 2011 final.


“There could be few more fitting swansongs to Lucas’s stellar career than to hold the Asian Cup aloft before his family and home town fans at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on January 31, 2015,” Brown said. “I know the Socceroos hope to follow up their third consecutive World Cup finals appearance in Brazil next year by winning the Asian Cup at their third attempt.”


Australia, Japan, Korean Republic and DPR Korea have already qualified for the 2015 Asian Cup, which kicks off less than six months after the World Cup final in Brazil. Qualifying for the remaining 12 places is underway.


The tournament will be held from January 9-31, 2015, in five host cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle – and is jointly funded by the Australian Government and the NSW, Victorian, Queensland and ACT Governments.


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