Asian Cup Diary - Quarter-final wrap
Football, as they say, is a game of two halves. And I guess football tournaments are comprised of a similar dichotomy.
The group stages are generally more exciting. Spurred on by the desire to qualify for the knockout stages, teams play a much more aggressive brand of football which is a joy to watch. Goals aside, and mind you there have been plenty, managers are happy to stay true to their philosophy, and matches are generally open in nature.
The fact there were no scoreless draws in the group stages is testament to this fact. Otherwise, The Diary reckons it’s a meaningless milestone.
Knock-out stages, on the other hand, are more tentative. Pragmatic approaches give rise to shocking football. Okay, it’s not that bad, but, comparatively speaking, it is quite bad.
This time around though, things are different. Twelve goals in four matches (34 if you count penalties) at an average of three goals a game is much higher than the 58 goals in 24 games (average of 2.4) which we saw in the group stages. Crazy.
Indeed, we did witness the first goalless score of the tournament within 90 minutes of action in the form of South Korea vs Uzbekistan, but still, two Son Heung-min goals in extra time would’ve made up for that disappointment, right?
The Diary definitely thinks so. Of course, we all know Son is a tricky little customer with his nifty footwork, but what about that diving header? Cahill-esque! The skill, and almost instinctual anticipation for it would give his Aussie counterpart a run for his money. And finally, the cool composure he displayed when blasting the shot into the roof of the net to seal the match. Classy fella!
So, it seems rather odd that the young Bayer Leverkusen attacker has gotten as little publicity as he truly deserves.
Meanwhile, unlike the old enemy that seem to be perennial flops on the international stage (England, that is), the Socceroos are into the semis. Job well done. After all, that’s least we required of them…
Nevertheless, as per the schedule, things aren’t over and they must play on.
It was nice seeing Tim Cahill back amongst the scoring charts and adding to his tally as the Socceroos’ highest ever goal scorer. And he’s 35-years-old. But it seems at this stage of his career, goals count for nothing unless their flamboyant and memorable.
Case in point: his volley vs Netherlands and his bicycle kick/header double against China. And with his bones becoming more brittle by the day, one wonders why he just can’t seem to score with simplicity.
If there was one criticism that The Diary would make about that bicicleta, it would have to be that there was some Chinese dude lying on the turf right next to him. It was the goal that nearly wasn’t, and fortunately for Cahill, he has another blinder to add to his highlights reel.
Elsewhere, Ben Williams has made headlines for his red card on Mehrdad Pooladi. And while leading 1-0, it was always going to be tough defending that lead with 10-men. Unsurprisingly, Iraq levelled, then led in extra-time, then Iran levelled against the odds, then conceded then levelled again.
The penalty shootout wasn’t much different, both missed their first, then everyone starting scoring, then Iran missed and Iraq took advantage. And that seemingly never-ending joust was over.
Iran are out, Carlos Queiroz is fuming. The end of the world is nigh.
And while that might not necessarily be true, it seems Javier Aguirre’s world could well be on the brink of collapse, in part, due to some negative tactics by Mahdi Ali and his two misfiring Japanese stars in Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa (and The Diary means that both metaphorically and literally…).
Now that the defending champion are out after some pretty shocking football throughout the tournament, Aguirre will most likely be shown the door. And his managerial career could be in jeopardy given he’s been accused of match-fixing in Spain, something he vehemently denies.
So far, the tournament has been successful - the atmosphere by fans, and of course the on-field entertainment, the TV ratings have made for a medium to showcase football. If there is one criticism The Diary has though, it would the somewhat disappointing crowds.
Nineteen thousand at Stadium Australia for a quarter-final IS disappointing. You’re kidding yourselves if you think it isn’t.