Australia has lifted its first major soccer trophy, defeating South Korea in a tense and exhilarating match that was decided by a goal the Socceroos in extra time.
The win exorcises the ghosts of losing to tournament final to Japan in Qatar in 2011.
Australia’s James Troisi managed to find the net in the first half of extra-time following some individual brilliance from Tomi Juric who scuffled and shuffled past the defence on the goal line before delivering a cross into the danger zone.
The Socceroos looked set to lift the trophy following a goal to Massimo Luongo in the 45th minute, against the run of play as South Korea repeatedly attacked the Australian line, but with 90 seconds left in the match, Heung-Min Son found the net to even the score.
Star striker Robbie Kruse injured his achilles tendon in the 63rd minute – and was yellow carded by the referee for wasting time as he lay on the ground being treated – and will be out of the game for 12 months. He was stretchered off the ground, replaced by Troisi.
Tim Cahill also left injured in the middle of the second half.
South Korea looked dangerous all night, but several shots on goal went wide. The game began at a frantic pace and it was maintained over the next two hours, in a nail-biting finish for Australian fans. The Socceroos found little favour with the referee, who handed out six yellow cards against the Australians. but rarely found fault in their opponents.
The Socceroos did well in the other awards at the end of the tournament, with rising star Massimo Luongo being named the Asian Cup’s most valuable player. Goalkeeper Mat Ryan was named best keeper and Australia took home the tournament’s best and fairest team award too.
Score: Australia 2 (Luongo, 45m, Troisi, 105m), South Korea 1 (Son, 91m)