Thursday, January 13, 2011

Australia and Korea set for epic showdown

Sasa Ognenovski came under fire from
Korean coach Cho Kwang-Rae
Picture: Fox Sports
It’s by far the biggest game in the group stages of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup and the result will go a long way to determining the hopes of both nations.

Australia vs Korea Republic wouldn’t look out of place as a final, and it could very well end the case if results fall the right way.

The mind games started as soon as the final whistle blew in their respective first matches. Australia, through Lucas Neill, was quick to assume the underdog status – a position it thrives in.

Korea Republic, on the other hand, were what Australia had been accused of in 2007 – brash, arrogant and full of bravado. Their coach, Cho Kwang-Rae, said he was confident his side could defeat Australia and planned to target what he saw as a weakness in the Australian side – their slow central defensive pairing of Lucas Neill and Sasa Ognenovski.

"When it comes to the mobility of the players, our strikers are bit better than the Australian central defence," Cho said.

"(When) I was in charge of Gyeongnam, I intentionally put fast forwards in to make it difficult for Sasa.

"In these games I learnt Sasa had problems with quick forwards and I could make use of it."

It was a stinging comment given the Ognenovski was last year crowned AFC Player of the Year after a standout season as Captain of AFC Champions League winners Seongnam.

Australia has considered Ognenovski’s knowledge one of it’s greatest strengths going into it’s clash with the Koreans. But conversely, is the Korean’s knowledge of Ognenovski also a strength for them?

The battle between Koo Ja-Cheol, Korea’s two goal hero in the first game, and Ognenovski will be enthralling and could go some way to deciding the outcome of the game.

Korea Republic Coach Cho Kwang-Rae
If Ognenovski’s pace, or lack thereof, is considered a weakness by Cho, then one can only imagine what he thinks of Australia’s left-hand side.

David Carney, admittedly a more natural left-midfielder, has struggled for Australia in recent times, no doubt due to his lack of game time for Blackpool, and looked well off the pace for Australia against India.

He will come under attack from Cha Du-Ri, Korea’s right back who loves to get forward and help out his attack. It’s an area that Australia will need to tighten up considerably if they are to prevent attack after attack coming down the right.

Equally as fascinating as the battle on the pitch, will be the battle off it.

Despite claims by Lucas Neill that the winner of this game will top the group, it’s not quite that simple.

In fact amazingly, Australia could win the game and still not finish in the top two. The presence of whipping boys India makes the group wide open given that it is effectively a guaranteed three points for Australia, Korea and Bahrain.

If Australia is to beat Korea 1-0, but lose to Bahrain in the final game, it needs to hope that Bahrain and Korea don’t give a hiding to India as goal difference will then come into the equation.

If Bahrain and Korea both score 5 or 6 against India, a distinct possibility, an Australian loss to Bahrain would mean they would finish third on goal difference.

It’s a scenario that will have many scratching their head if it eventuates.

But before then, there is the small matter of Australia vs Korea Republic to contend with and as the first six days of this AFC Asian Cup have shown, anything can happen.

Bring it on.


1 comment:

  1. great article, i cant wait for this game.
    I think its a huge advantage to have a quality side so soon in the competition. Last time we played Japan and lost all be it on penalties. With this good hit out early on I think we will be ready to go all the way if we can get past this hurdle.