It was South Korea who emerged victorious when the two nations met in the Asian Cup group stage, but the Socceroos would have learned some valuable lessons from that 1-0 defeat.
We’ve pinpointed five reasons why the result could be different in front of a packed house at Stadium Australia on Saturday night as the coveted AFC Asian Cup trophy goes on the line.
Jedinak and Cahill’s presence
Socceroos skipper Mile Jedinak missed the Group A clash through injury while Tim Cahill only started from the bench. But you can be sure Australia’s two most influential players will be in the starting XI on Saturday night.
Like Korean skipper Ki Sung Yueng, Jedinak plays in the EPL and brings about him a real presence. His work-rate, tackling and protection of the defence will be vital. Not to mention his experience.
And Cahill will provide a different threat to the Korean defence that they encountered last time. Kwak Taehwi and Kim Young Gwon can’t afford to give Cahill any space in the box, especially from crosses.
Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse, who also started off the bench in the group game, are likely to be unleashed from the start in the final.
Defence now “switched on”
Like in the group opener with Kuwait, the Socceroos were only undone in Brisbane when they “switched off” at a throw-in on the right, which proved costly. Korean skipper Ki Sung Yueng’s classy pass saw Lee Keun Ho get in behind the defence and he picked out Lee Jeonghyeop to score.
It was a wake-up call for the Aussies, who haven’t had a similar defensive lapse since, not conceding a goal in their two sudden-death games.
If they can stay focused and keep it tight at the back again, there’s no doubt they have the attacking arsenal to get the goals at the other end.
No more surface tensions
The much criticised surface in Brisbane made it difficult for the Socceroos to fully ramp up their quick, slick passing game against Korea.
It not only allowed the visitors a bit of extra time to get their defensive structure right as Australia had to take extra care with every touch, but there’s no doubt it also put Postecoglou’s side off their game slightly.
The Socceroos won’t have that same worry in Sydney, with a pristine pitch awaiting them on Saturday night.
It will help the creative players like Luongo and Bresciano, while wingers Leckie and Kruse will find it easier to run at and attack their markers.
Goal-creating and goal-scoring form of Socceroos
It might be the obvious point but there’s no doubt it’s the most important. Despite fielding a weakened side in the group stage match, Australia still created enough opportunities to win a couple of games, but either found goal-keeper Kim Jin Hyeon too hard to beat or wasted their opportunities.
Given Korea’s brick-wall defence (they haven’t conceded in all five matches so far), chances might be scarce for the Socceroos so they must take them when they present themselves.
Having Cahill, Leckie and Kruse set to go from the start this time will only improve the side’s ruthlessness in front of goal.
The 12th man
Around 80,000 fans will cram into Sydney’s Olympic stadium with the majority clad in Green and Gold providing a hostile atmosphere, even for the well-supported Koreans.
The Socceroos have enjoyed some huge success at the venue - who will ever forget that famous win over Uruguay back in 2005 – and this promises to be an even bigger occasion and another historic night for Australian football.
Home support – let’s face it – is a big factor. A 12th man if you will. In their sixth game in 23 days, it might just be the deciding factor in giving the Socceroos that extra energy boost to get over the line.
So make some noise for our boys!
The Socceroos will face Korea Republic in the AFC Asian Cup Final at Stadium Australia on Saturday 31 January (8.00pm local kick off). Click here to purchase tickets.
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