Football Sport

Dragon dreaming

Written by Ben Blaschke

It might not have been the quarter-final match-up most were predicting, but there is no doubt that Thursday’s clash between surprise packets China and host nation Australia is shaping up as the single biggest game of the 2015 Asian Cup so far.

Having been eliminated in the group stage at their past two attempts in 2007 and 2011, expectation wasn’t exactly soaring ahead of Team Dragon’s opening clash with three-time champions Saudi Arabia but three games and three wins later they have brought the Asian Cup to life.

On the pitch, China has played a fast and exciting style of football that helped them come from a goal down against Uzbekistan – scoring one of the goals of the tournament in the process – and go 1-0 up against North Korea inside the opening minute.

Off the pitch their colorful legion of fans has faithfully followed their every move while creating a dramatic sea of red in the grandstands. It’s precisely what this Asian Cup needed.

The task, though, gets much tougher from here and it’s a cruel twist of fate that sees them lining up against an Australian side that should have easily beaten South Korea last start but for a bad day in front of goal.

Australia’s size and physical presence will test the Chinese and they will have to improve again if they are to continue their giant-killing run – although they would fancy their chances of scoring at least one goal given the hosts less than reliable defensive record of late.

One thing we are certain of is that the atmosphere inside Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium will be electric. For those who have never had the pleasure of visiting Suncorp Stadium, it is a brilliant venue to watch live sport – easily the best in Australia – with its high stands creating a real cauldron-like atmosphere.

The noise will be deafening as the two sets of fans urge their team on, so it may well be that the winner of this one doesn’t so much come down to footballing pedigree but who handles the occasion best on the night.