Asian Cup Diary - Day 2

Day 2 – A day of opposites and changing fortunes.

Sometimes, waking up and flicking through newspapers can be the most arduous and depressing thing among our many daily activities. The negativity of news stories and the pessimistic characteristics are perhaps indicative of our often monotonous, one-sided lifestyle.

And so, it’s often a welcome relief when the feature story itself is one of optimism. “HE’S THE ONE!” screamed The Daily Telegraph – which, quite evidently, was in reference to Timmy Cahill, who himself seemed equally as ecstatic (Don’t believe me? Just check out the number of selfies he posted on his Facebook page…).  The headline itself, though, was written in bolded white letters. The simplicity of the punchline had the effect of subconsciously overpowering the reader with pride and glee.

It was, of course, a feel-good Socceroos story – one, which, in recent times, has been a rarity. After all, Ange Postecoglou’s troops had finally won, and they did so in a convincing fashion that, all of a sudden, it seems Australia are once again favourites to win the Asian Cup.

Elsewhere, though, day two proved to be one shrouded by disappointments.

The Asian Cup finally took hold of its first casualty in the form of Saudi Arabia’s Luis Suarez-esque striker in Nasser Al Shamrani.

The often outspoken talisman was forced to pull out of the tournament due to a recurrence of an unknown injury, which he suffered in his team's friendly defeat against South Korea. The news undoubtedly came a massive disappointment for Saudi fans, who would’ve fancied their nation’s chances had the 31-year-old been fully fit.

It’s fair to say, though, that everyone in general would’ve been left disappointed by his premature exit. The locals no longer had the opportunity to dish out a few scathing sledges, and journalists no longer had the opportunity of potentially reporting on some sort of on-field incident. More importantly though, fans have been denied the opportunity of witnessing a talented player who had the ability to set the Asian Cup alight, and the tournament is all the poorer for it.

Even the matches themselves were somewhat disappointing.

In a match that was supposed to highlight their credentials, South Korea were woeful in the 1-0 win over Oman in Canberra.

Their 71-29 dominance of possession equated to nothing as they often failed to break down a stubborn Oman defence. They were perhaps lucky not to have conceded a few goals of their own given that Oman nation looked menacing on the counter-attack on several occasions.  

Meanwhile, the conditions at Stadium Australia were woeful as an apocalyptic storm rolled over Homebush, making for a rather dull contest between Uzbekistan and North Korea.

The Uzbeks looked in control of the match from the beginning and always appeared worthy winners.

North Korea, though, deserve credit of their own and showed glimpses of potential, that is, without star player Jong Tae-se.

Given the amount of nonsense they’ve had to cop from some sections of the media that played on the typical North Korean stereotypes, do North Korea really deserve to be the butt of all jokes?

"We would like to let our Australian rivals know, and the local organisers, and the AFC, and everyone involved with the Asian Cup that people here in Australia are our friends,” North Korea manager Jo said prior to the game.

"They are doing their best to make us feel comfortable while we are staying here. We do not have any troubles staying here or training or preparing for the competition - thank you very much for that to all the AFC and our Australian friends here."

You be the judge.

Finally, Saudi Arabia’s loss to China also proved to be a disappointment, but only for the Saudis. On a more optimistic note, though, Chinese football looks to be on the rise, and there shouldn’t be any doubt in classifying them as the tournament’s dark horses.