BRISBANE (Reuters) – When Australia ditched Oceania to join the Asian Football Confederation, they had two goals in mind: they wanted an easier path to the World Cup and regular matches against tougher opposition.
Both wishes were granted. The Socceroos represented Asia at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and the opposition has proven tough to beat, especially at the Asian Cup.
The region’s most important championship is proving harder to win than the Australians first thought. They made the quarter-finals in 2007 and the final in 2011 and were awarded the rights to host this year’s event.
Everything was going along smoothly after they piled on eight goals in their first two Group matches but a 1-0 loss to South Korea on Saturday has changed everything.
After finishing runners-up in their group, the Socceroos are now facing a tricky path to the final with China awaiting in the quarters and possibly Japan in the semis.
The Australian coach Ange Postecoglou put on a brave face after his team’s defeat, putting the loss down to bad luck and insisting everything was alright.
The difference between finishing first and second in the group was significant for the Australians. Had they finished first and won their quarter-final, they would have played their semi-final at Sydney’s Olympic stadium on Jan 26, Australia Day. By finishing runner-up, they will play their semi-final at Newcastle, a much smaller venue, on Jan 27, if they get that far.