- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

SYDNEY (AP) - The Asian Cup final between Australia and South Korea presents the familiar conundrum of the irresistible force meeting the immoveable object.

Australia, the tournament’s highest-scoring team with 12 goals in five games, takes on a South Korean lineup that is yet to concede a goal in five games, including one that went to extra time - so 480 minutes of football.

That is the contrast between the teams ahead of Saturday’s final, but what they share is a desire to add a major cup to less-than-overwhelming trophy cabinets.

South Korea has not won the Asian Cup since 1960, having lost in the final three times since. Australia has a vast array of regional titles from its time in the Oceania confederation, but none since switching to the Asia in 2006. The Socceroos lost the 2011 Asian Cup final to Japan.

“All those kind of things again become a little bit irrelevant when you’re talking about a one-off game on such a big occasion,” Australia coach Ange Postecoglou told a news conference on the eve of the championship match. “Previous records go out the window because every moment is so crucial in a big game.”

Home-ground advantage, at the 83,000-capacity former Olympic stadium in Sydney, plus the absence of a couple of key South Korea players, should give Australia a slight advantage despite a 1-0 loss to the South Koreans in the group stage - a game where key attacking players Tim Cahill, Robbie Kruse and Mathew Leckie all started from the bench as Postecoglou sought to keep his squad fresh ahead of the knockout stages.

“We’ll just do what we have been doing,” Postecoglou said. “It’s proven to be successful so far and there won’t be any secrets about how we go about it tomorrow.”

“We’ll take the game to the opposition as we have every game. We’ll put pressure on them and it’s up to them to try and stop us from creating opportunities and scoring goals.”

Two-time champion South Korea defeated Iraq 2-0 to qualify for its first Asian Cup final since 1988 and captain Ki Sung Yueng sees it as an opportunity for the Taeguk Warriors to reassert itself in the Asian region in a way not seen since its run to the 2002 World Cup semifinals.

“We always say that Korean football is one of the best in Asia, because we always went to World Cups, we went to a semifinal and qualified for the group stages,” Ki said. “However, on the other hand, we never (recently) won the Asian Cup, which Japan and Saudi (Arabia) have won more than us.

“So, it’s a little bit of shame for ourselves that we never proved that we are the biggest team in Asia. This is a great opportunity to show people that we can be champions.”

After joining the Asian confederation from Oceania in 2006, Australia has quickly become a force at the continental championship, making the quarterfinals in its inaugural attempt in 2007, before losing the final to Japan 1-0 after extra time in Qatar four years later.

Postecoglou believes Australia’s successful hosting of the Asian Cup, with more than 600,000 fans attending the 32 matches, has been a major boost to the game in the country, regardless of the outcome of the final.

“My pride comes from the fact that the game in this country has got a real big kick in this last month,” Postecoglou said. “Every game has been well supported and people have understood what joy and drama football can bring.

“As a kid growing up in this country nothing makes me happier than people talking about football.”

One concern for Australia is the fitness of right back Ivan Franjic, who jarred his hip in the second half of Tuesday’s semifinal win over the United Arab Emirates.

Franjic “will train today and if he gets through training, he’s available to play,” Postecoglou said.

___

AP Sports Writer Chris Lines contributed to this report.


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