ACL triumph sets the scene for Asian Cup

Asian football has never been better known, more followed or more popular in Australia than it is now. Asia needs an Australia with football strength and football passion. The Wanderers have provided both.

And the timing couldn't be better. Just two months before the start of Asia's biggest football competition for national teams held in Australia, an Australian club takes the title of Asia's biggest football competition for clubs.

The Wanderers have done something that a hundred marketing campaigns could not match. They have shown an entire nation just how good Asian football is and shown an entire continent the passion that exists in Australian football is. 

The AFC Asian Cup is now just weeks away and iis a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to follow up this appetiser with the most sumptuous and substantial main courses to be served over three fantastic weeks.

For years, there have been concerns among some fans in Australia that the country's football scene was keeping Asia at arm's length. That certainly won't be the feeling on at the moment as the Hyundai A-League welcomed home its first ever winner of the AFC Champions League earlier this week. 

It goes without saying that Western Sydney Wanderers have done Australia proud. Little-known and little-fancied at the start of the tournament all those months ago, Tony Popovic's men soon became famous even if there were still plenty of doubts about whether they could actually do it right until the final whistle in Riyadh.

This was despite finishing top of their group, knocking out Japanese champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the second leg, then the mighty Guangzhou Evergrande, Asian and Chinese title-holders in the last eight, and then 2013 runner-up FC Seoul in the semi-final. Yet, the win still came as a surprise to much of the continent and was certainly not expected in Riyadh. Al Hilal sees itself as the biggest club in Asia, bar none.

The win will last long in the memory of Australian fans. Popovic's strategy and tactics have been perfect. 

The young coach has bested more experienced counterparts that have far more resources at their disposal. That's impressive enough but off the field, the former Crystal Palace number two has been the perfect ambassador for Australian football in steering his team to number one in Asia.

The saves of veteran goalkeeper Ante Covic will not be forgotten in Sydney or Riyadh and the performances of the magnificent Nikolai Topor Stanley in the centre of defence and the live wire difference-maker Tomi Juric will enter Australian football folklore and, come to think of it, Asia's too.

For the two are connected. Over time, after the parties and celebrations end and once the medals start to gather a little dust, perhaps the Wanderers' greatest achievement will be seen in strengthening the connection between the giant continent and the land down under.

Six years after Adelaide reached the final, the Wanderers went one better and took the nation on a tour of some of the most interesting and exciting parts of Asia. The fans, the media, then the country followed. At the same time, the rest of the continent has had a good look at the A-League at a time when the tournament is booming.

There can't be many better atmospheres than the one created by Western Sydney supporters, especially when it comes to the Asian Champions League.

Now, time for Socceroo fans across Australia and visiting fans from all the competing nations to take it to another level for what looms as a fascinating Asian Cup 2015.

The Socceroos will be looking to win their first AFC Asian Cup when Asia’s biggest football tournament heads to Australia in January 2015.

32 matches over 23 days will be played in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle with the Socceroos kicking off the tournament against Kuwait in Melbourne on January 9.