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SYDNEY - Australias victory over South Korea in the Asian Cup final on Saturday capped a remarkable period for a nation which is

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SYDNEY - Australias victory over South Korea in the Asian Cup final on Saturday capped a remarkable period for a nation which is only just awakening to the possibilities that membership of Asia provides — on and off the field.Inside three months Australia has catapulted itself to the forefront of the Asian football confederation, the worlds largest.Watched by a 76,385-strong crowd, Australias 2-1 defeat of two-time champion South Korea in extra time at Sydneys Olympic stadium was the countrys first Asian Cup title since moving to the Asian zone from Oceania in 2006.It continued a run of strong performances at the quadrennial continental championships for Australia, which includes a final appearance in 2011 where it eventually lost to Japan 1-0 in extra time.The goal should be for this confederation to break the European and South American monopoly on the World Cup, said Australia coach Ange Postecoglou after guiding the Socceroos to its breakthrough victory. This tournament here, its a great achievement but its not the end of the journey. It is the beginning for us.Im not going to put any limits on this group of players. Whatever we do, weve set the standard here today.The Asian Cup was the first major football tournament to be hosted by Australia and provided some much-needed positive news after the controversial 2022 World Cup bidding process that saw Australia lose out to Qatar.FIFA President Sepp Blatters arrival at the official medal presentation after the final triggered boos from home fans, eager to voice their displeasure at the tainted governing body.The tournament, though, was well supported by the general Australian public, with over 640,000 people attending the 32 games in five cities — Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle — a 50 per cent increase on attendances at the previous edition in Qatar in 2011.The organizers also boasted of record television audiences across the continent.In China, Asias biggest market, the cumulative average viewership for the event was 182 million by the end of the semifinal stage and the cumulative reach totalled 950 million. The AFC cited its data from CSM Media Research - KantarSport Asia.Television viewership in the host nation exceeded one million for its semifinal victory over the United Arab Emirates, making it one of the most widely watched football matches in the countrys history.I think its going to do a lot of things, said Australia winger Mathew Leckie, who plays for second-tier German club FC Ingolstadt. Its incredible the amount of people that came tonight. For me I think its the biggest Australian success in sport.Champions of Asia, its quite incredible and you know you could see how much everyone loved tonight.At club level, Australia has also had a breakthrough year in Asian competition.In November, Australia club side Western Sydney Wanderers, coached by former Socceroo Tony Popovic, claimed the countrys first Asian club-competition silverware by beating the more-fancied Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia 1-0 on aggregate in the Asian Champions League.We came into this confederation knowing it would be a huge challenge, the Matildas won the (womens) Asian Cup (in 2010), then the Wanderers in the Champions League and now weve won, Postecoglou said.I said from day one we wont take a backward step from anyone. We dont do it in another sport and we dont do it in football. 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Cheap Willie Stargell Jersey . Louis Blues, having added Ryan Miller and Steve Ott from Buffalo, remain the No. CUIABA, Brazil -- James Rodriguez scored a brilliant goal and set up two more for Jackson Martinez as Colombia routed Japan 4-1 on Tuesday to confirm top spot in Group C and eliminate the Asian champions from the World Cup. Already assured of advancing, Colombia guaranteed first place with its third straight win, setting up a second-round match against Uruguay. The Colombians started with a virtual second-string lineup but still went in front when Juan Cuadrado -- one of the few regular starters -- drilled in a 17th-minute penalty. Japan equalized with the last touch of the first half through Shinji Okazakis header but Martinez scored in the 55th and 82nd minutes -- both from superb passes from substitute Rodriguez -- to put the result beyond doubt. Rodriguez capped it off with his stunning solo goal in the 89th, turning his marker inside out before chipping the advancing goalkeeper with a deft finish that bore all the hallmarks of the great Lionel Messi. That made it nine goals for Colombia in the group stage, and the South Americans are proving to be the World Cups big entertainers. The introduction of Rodriguez tilted the game back Colombias way after Japan finished the first half stronger, with Okazakis goal having given Alberto Zaccheronis side a slim chance of progressing. Although Japanese fans will have been keeping one eye on the match being played simultaneously between Ivory Coast and Greece in Fortaleza, their players only had one mission: win three points and see if that would be enough.dddddddddddd It didnt open to plan, with Japan going behind to a penalty that was needlessly given away by Konno, who lunged into a challenge on Adrian Ramos. Despite Japans protests, it was a clear foul and Cuadrado had no difficulty converting the spot kick. The goal left Japan susceptible to the counter-attack as they pushed forward in search of two goals. At the other end, there was a lack of cutting edge -- Shinji Kagawa had a weak shot saved and Keisuke Honda wasted three free kicks from good positions -- before Honda crossed for Okazaki to head in at the near post with what was the last touch of the half. Rodriguez -- one of many regulars rested at the start by coach Jose Pekerman -- was introduced for the second half and he made an immediate difference, livening up the crowd and the teams attacking play with his turn of speed and precision passing. Within 10 minutes, he had created Martinezs goal, running onto the ball and playing in his teammate with a cute pass for the striker to take one touch and shoot left-footed low into the corner. The FC Porto striker made it 3-1 with a curling left-foot finish, this time following a reverse pass from Rodriguez. 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