Adeus Brazil, g’day Australia

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200 DAYS UNTIL AFC ASIAN CUP, the biggest football tournament ever held Down Under

Inspirational performances by the Socceroos in Brazil, and the prospect of seeing Tim Cahill lead Australia’s charge towards Asian glory, have spiked interest in AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015.

The Socceroos’ final match of the World Cup, against 2010 champions Spain on 23 June (2 am AEST, 24 June) marks the “200 Days To Go” countdown to the event, the biggest football tournament ever held Down Under.

When the final whistle blows in Curitiba, Australia’s football focus will start to switch from Brazil to home.

The next competitive match for the Socceroos will be the AFC Asian Cup tournament opener against Kuwait in Melbourne on 9 January, 2015, followed by Oman in Sydney on 13 January and a blockbuster against Korea Republic in Brisbane on 17 January.

Australia’s heroic efforts at the World Cup, despite losing 3-1 to Chile and 3-2 to Holland, have made the football world sit up and take notice and have garnered the support and interest of people who become football fans once every four years.

They have also led to a surge in demand for tickets to Australia’s three group matches at the Asian Cup, and for the finals.

Australia’s spirited showing against top class opposition at Brazil 2014 gives every indication that Ange Postecoglou’s young team will be a force to be reckoned with at the premier football event for more than half of the world’s population.

Australia will be joined by three other World Cup finalists – Japan, South Korea and Iran – as Asia’s top 16 teams battle for the Asian Cup in 32 matches over 23 days in the five host cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle.

After scoring what many are saying is the goal of the World Cup so far against Holland, Cahill confirmed his desire to play in Australia’s first Asian Cup on home soil, saying he would be “fighting fit to be available, to keep my body in the best shape I can”.

Australian fans will be able to savour the likelihood of watching not only their own stars, such as Cahill and emerging talents like Matthew Leckie, Matthew Spiranovic, Mat Ryan, Tommy Oar and Tom Rogic.

They can also relish the chance to see Asia’s other World Cup stars including AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda, Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki (Mainz 05) and Yuto Nagatomo (Inter Milan) of Japan, Iran’s dazzling young striker Reza “Gucci” Ghoochannejad and Ashkan Dejagah and South Koreans Ki Sungyeung (Sunderland) and Son Heungmin (Bayer Leverkusen).

“Australia’s performance in Brazil has been absolutely inspiring, offering a glimpse of the high-octane excitement we expect them to generate at the Asian Cup,” said Michael Brown, CEO of the Local Organising Committee.

“It’s probably fair to say expectations on the Socceroos were low in Brazil, given that they are a young team in transition and were in probably the toughest group of all – against both 2010 finalists Spain and Holland as well as 14th-ranked Chile.

“But after such pulsating performances against Chile and Holland, and hopefully another against Spain, I’m sure expectations will be very high in Australia in January. As hosts, they will go in as one of the favourites, and the nation will be hoping they can lift the trophy for the first time,” he said.

”We are particularly looking forward to witnessing the next chapter of Australia’s rivalry with Japan, who will be defending their title after beating the Socceroos in the 2011 final, and with South Korea, who the Socceroos meet in their final group match in Brisbane,” he added.

The AFC Asian Cup is Asia’s biggest football competition and was established in 1956.

The 16 nations to qualify for AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 are Australia as hosts, defending champions Japan, Korea Republic and 2012 AFC Challenge Cup winners DPR Korea, along with Bahrain, China, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Palestine.

The tournament is being financially supported by the Australian Government and the NSW, Victorian, Queensland and ACT Governments.Fox Sports will broadcast the AFC Asian Cup throughout Australia.For more information on AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 visit www.afcasiancup.com. Tickets are on sale now at www.afcasiancup.com/tickets or for Australian residents from 1300 883 688 or any Ticketek outlet. International fans can buy their tickets from the same website or by calling +61 3 9039 9483.

Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Australian Magazine)

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