Asian Cup: Australia and Japan to contest final
Australia have reached the 2011 AFC Asian Cup final in Qatar this weekend after crushing Uzbekistan by six goals to nil in yesterday’s semi-final. Japan also went through but did it the hard way as Alberto Zaccherroni’s men needed a penalty shoot out to get the better of arch-rivals South Korea.
There were six different scorers for the Socceroos as they put Uzbekistan to the sword in a game which was expected to be a lot closer than it was. Harry Kewell opened the scoring after just five minutes for the Aussies who then had Sasa Ognenovski to thank for doubling the advatage ten minutes before half-time. David Carney extended the lead on 66 minutes and when Ulugbek Bakaev was shown the red card just sixty seconds later for a rash challenge then the game was over as a contest. Three more strikes in the closing fifteen minutes from Brett Emerton, Carl Valeri and Robbie Kruse sealed the deal for Australia who reach their first Asian Cup final in only their second tournament since coming over from the Oceania Football Federation five years ago.
Japan are still in the hunt for a fourth Asian Cup title following a dramatic encounter with Asian heavyweights South Korea. Ki Sung Yong and Ryoichi Maeda exchanged goals for the Koreans and Japanese respectively in the first half and those goals remained the only strikes of a tantalising 90 minutes play. Extra-time proved even more action-packed when Hajimi Hosogai gave Japan the lead after 97 minutes only to see Jae Won Hwang equalised with a last-gasp 120th minute strike to take the game into a penalty shoot out. The Koreans, having forced the game into a spot kick lottery, then lost their nerve in the shoot out losing 3-0.
Uzbekistan and South Korea must now contend themselves with a 3rd/4th play-off match on Friday whilst Japan and Australia will face-off for the trophy on Saturday at the Al Khalifa Stadium in Doha.