DOHA - Winning a first Asian Cup would be a fitting reward for the generation of Socceroos players who have lifted the sport in Australia, captain Lucas Neill said on Friday.
Neill, along with Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill, Brett Emerton and goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer have provided the backbone of the Australian team over the last decade and head into Saturday's final against Japan hopeful of their first piece of international silverware.
"For this era of players, it's an ideal opportunity to win something. It would be a very nice reward for a lot of hard work and sacrifice," Neill told reporters at the Khalifa Stadium on Friday.
"Together, we have lifted football in Australia and it would be a nice reward for that work."
Neill, 32, has expertly led his band of 30-somethings to their first Asian Cup final on the back of a miserly defence which has conceded just one goal in their five matches.
Their 6-0 demolition of Uzbekistan in their semi-final on Tuesday took their goal tally to 13 for the tournament, level with Japan, but the similarities appear to end there.
While Australia have relied on experience, Japan have only former Asian player-of-the-year Yasuhito Endo over 30 in their squad.
The Blue Samurai's youthful side have played some eye-catching, attacking football en route to the final with their influential creative trio of Keisuke Honda, Shinji Okazaki and Shinji Kagawa tormenting the opposition.
Kagawa, though, will miss the final after breaking his foot in the semi-final penalty shootout victory over South Korea.
"Kagawa contributed a lot to the team on the way to the final and he was getting better and better," Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni told reporters.
"I already know who will replace him and I have full confidence in this player. I know the player well from watching him in the J-League and I think he will be able to take over from Kagawa," the Italian added without revealing who would replace the Borussia Dortmund forward.
Victory for Japan would mean a record fourth Asian title and Zaccheroni, who has yet to taste defeat since taking charge in August, was quietly confident of success in the match between the two best FIFA ranked sides in the 16-team tournament.
"The togetherness and spirit is fantastic in this team. I'm proud to be in charge of them," he said.
"I'm very satisfied to have made the final and I like the way we got here too."comments