China was already home and hosed while DPR Korea were just heading home, but a battle loomed between Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia about who would progress to the Asian Cup quarter-finals. David Hards reveals five things we learned from Group B.
Get there early
Grab the tickets, park the car and find your seat before the players walk out or you could miss the early action. Goals in the first 120 seconds of each game showed how important it is to get to these Asian Cup games on time. China’s Sun Ke’s first minute goal and the second minute effort of Uzbek Sardor Rashidov weren’t even the quickest of the tournament so far. That honour goes to Ali Mabkhout from the UAE with his 14 second effort against Bahrain.
Sell out in Canberra
Normally when you hear there is a sell out in Canberra you immediately think a politician has jumped political lines and sold out for a personal cause. Not this time. The sold out sign was placed out the front of the Canberra Stadium for the China v DPR Korea game. The Asian Cup has been an immense success for the City of Canberra. Could we see an A-League team located there in the near future?
It would be remiss not to mention the controversial Australian referee. Two highly contentious decisions within the space of five minutes turned the game on its head. First, the decision to award a penalty to Saudi Arabia was probably technically there but not according to former Socceroos striker Archie Thompson. The second decision to award a free kick milliseconds before the ball found the back of the net was less clear cut and frankly quite staggering. The con job by the Saudi Arabian defence was worthy of an Oscar award. Thankfully Uzbekistan was still good enough to win the game and qualify for the quarter final. Sadly Australia didn’t return the favour when their highly regarded referee Ravshan Irmaov officiated the Socceroos opening clash.
DPR Korea wins new fans
The Asian cup has seen many great things over the last 10 days but the support of DPR Korea has been something else. Many football fans have put personal political views aside and have embraced the 22 men chosen to represent the growing football nation. The DPR Korea squad leaves Australian shores without a point, but has gained the friendship and respect of many Australian fans throughout the group stage.
Asian powerhouse no more
Saudi Arabia will leave Australia earlier than scheduled after another extremely poor tournament. The Saudi’s barely let out a whimper during the tournament and were a far cry from their best. The three time winners are a shadow of their former selves and so far away from the runners-up team in 2007 that Australia saw in their first appearance at the Asian cup. Their continuing reliance on crossing the ball into the box was shut down time after time by the organised Uzbek defence. The team only found the scoresheet after Ben Williams pointed to the penalty spot - their third penalty in the Cup and the first successful conversion. Romanian coach Cosmin Olaroiu has plenty of work to do if Saudi Arabia is to return as a powerhouse in Asian football once more.comments