SYDNEY (AFP) – Five memorable moments from previous editions of the Asian Cup, which starts in Melbourne on Friday:
Iraq’s dramatic triumph – 2007
Iraq overcame extreme turmoil at home to lift the 2007 Asian Cup in dramatic circumstances, bringing a measure of solace to their war-torn country by beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the final in Jakarta.
Having stunned heavyweights South Korea on penalties in the semifinals – triggering wild celebrations on the streets of Baghdad, marred by bomb attacks which killed at least 50 people – Younis Mahmoud’s headed winner completed a remarkable triumph for Iraq, just four years after the US-led invasion.
‘Hand of Koji’ sparks China riot – 2004
Japan won the 2004 Asian Cup by beating hosts China 3-1 in a controversial final in Beijing after defender Koji Nakata scored his team’s second goal with his hand.
There had already been a suspicion of a foul in the build-up to Japan’s opener before Nakata clearly used his hand to scoop the ball over the line, prompting a furious reaction from the Chinese players and fans.
Angry scenes erupted at the final whistle, with Chinese fans hurling missiles and clashing with armed police outside the stadium.
Japan break Aussie hearts – 2011
The Blue Samurai captured a record fourth Asian Cup in 2011 with a smash-and-grab victory after being largely outplayed by Australia in the final in Doha.
Substitute Tadanari Lee lashed home a superb left-foot volley in the 109th minute, cruelly dashing Australian hopes of a first title and effectively bringing the curtain down on a golden generation for the Socceroos, many of whom were appearing at their last major international tournament.
On another day, Lee’s volley could have ended up in the carpark, but such was his technique that he left Australia goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer rooted to the spot, gaping in disbelief.
South Korea win inaugural Asian Cup – 1956
It is an odd anomaly that South Korea, who regularly punch above their weight at World Cups, famously reaching the semi-finals in 2002, have achieved relatively little success in Asia’s showcase competition.
The Koreans did, however, win the inaugural Asian Cup in 1956, winning two and drawing one of their three matches in a round-robin format to finish a point clear of Israel – the same teams finishing first and second again four years later. Astonishingly, the Taeguk Warriors have not won the title since.
Japan victorious in Lebanon cauldron – 2000
Japan held their nerve to win a politically charged 2000 tournament thrown into disarray following a Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation.
Israeli warplanes roared overhead in Beirut, often during training sessions, but Frenchman Philippe Troussier kept his Japan players focused on the task as they progressed from the group stages unbeaten.
They showed tremendous resilience in a hugely hostile environment to beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 in the final in Beirut, Shigeyoshi Mochizuki sweeping home the winner from a Shunsuke Nakamura free kick.