By Onochie Anibeze, Qatar
After playing some great matches here Lucas Neil says he will leave Qatar with not only wonderful memories but also great confidence that Qatar will dazzle the World in the 2022 World Cup that they will host the world 11 years from now.
The captain of Australia national team, the Socceroos, is also confident that they will beat Japan in the final at the magnificent Khalifa Stadium on Saturday to lift their first Asia Cup which will be their first international diadem if they are successful.
They only joined the Asia Football Confederation in 2006 from Oceania where they lacked keen competition. Oceania is the smallest of FIFA’s six federations and it is the only one without guaranteed direct entry to the World Cup.
Lucas was the star guest of the Aspire Sports Academy where he addressed players of the academy and had chat with visiting journalists.
He passed words of encouragement to the kids and told them that they should count themselves lucky to be training “in these excellent facilities.” He advised them to show hunger, work hard and believe that they could turn world stars in the future.
On his experience in Qatar, he said the following to journalists: “It’s been an amazing experience playing here. The stadiums are beautiful, the pitches are fantastic and the organisation has been flawless. If they could perform this way now, then the World Cup in 11 years time will be amazing. It could be the best. My advice is that they should continue doing what they have been doing. They should continue dreaming and working hard. They have the resources to stage a spectacular World Cup. Theirs could be the best.”
Australia beat Uzbekistan 6_0 to reach the final and Japan edged out South Korea 3_0 on penalties to qualify for the final. They will be attempting their fourth title. Going by what fans saw in the two semi_final matches Australia appear the favourites but they must contain the pace of the Japanese.
“We have justified our withdrawal from Oceania to Asia. We are getting more competitive. We were at the World Cup in Germany and in South Africa. And now we are in the final of Asia Cup. We are progressing and it only shows what the future holds for our football.
The final match today promises to be a cracker. Japanese captain Makoto Hasebe told the press here that having won the cup three times, they will not be burdened by any pressure.
“We know what it looks like to play in the final of big events. We will work hard to win and we will not be under any pressure. If you know what it means to be focused and not panic in a final they you can appreciate the advantage we have. We shall exploit it and put in our best,” he said.
Australia are Asia’s champions in the women’s soccer championship and a victory on Saturday will really prove their strength in the continent.
“We will host the Asia Cup in 2015 and it will be nice to host as defending champions,” Lucas said.