Australia wins the Asian Cup

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Tomi Juric was going nowhere, seemingly; stuck between the goal line and a Korean defender, he held possession for a moment, then went to ground.

Still with the ball, he got up and found a second Korean player on his back. Going nowhere, he flicked the ball behind him and swept a pass across the face of the goal, which the goalkeeper could only palm into open space ahead of him.

Fortunately, for those who had agonised through the previous 15 minutes, James Troisi was alive to the opportunity and slammed his shot into the net. Olympic Park, or Telstra Stadium, or Stadium Australia, or whatever we’re calling it for this tournament, exploded.

It could’ve been easier on everyone – the players and the crowd. Massimo Luongo opened the scoring after a tense first half: as Korean pressure on the Socceroos goal eased, he received the ball from deep, turned and screwed an unlikely shot into the bottom corner to bring a lead, and with it temporary relief.

Unarguably the biggest match in Australian football since the second leg of the World Cup qualifier against Uruguay in 2005, there were long stretches of this game which provided a desperately unwanted reminder of the tension here 10 years ago.

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There was a sense of inevitability about a South Korean goal throughout; Son Heung-Min threatened twice in a few minutes before Luongo’s goal and they continued to test Mathew Ryan as the second half rolled on. Still, the South Koreans were denied.

Suddenly, Australia found itself 1-0 up with minutes remaining and the stadium lifted to a roar. South Korea, perhaps unaware of the narrative that Australian football has been working on since the start of the tournament, surprised everyone – except perhaps themselves – by puncturing the bubble with a 90th minute goal, and bringing Australia crashing down to earth. For a stadium already assuming victory, the impact was shattering.

With both teams having accepted extra time as a reality, play continued and Australia pushed – without Tim Cahill, who had made way for Juric with half an hour to play of normal time, and without Robbie Kruse, who looks set for another 12 months on the sideline.

In the 105th minute, Juric broke through on the right and Troisi scored the winner.

There was to be no repeat heroics from the South Koreans and the match, and the tournament, ended as anyone with a passing interest in Australian football hoped that it would have.

Ange Postecoglou threw up his arms and the crowd went wild, then booed as Sepp Blatter took to the hastily assembled stage to shake hands and get his slime all over everything that’s good.

Justification for 12 months of indifferent results in friendlies and affirmation of Australia’s place in Asia, the analysis of what it all means can wait – the Socceroos celebrate a victory for everyone involved in Australian football.

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