Australia keen to cap lessons with 1st Asian title

Doha, January 28 (AP) Australia believe they have theform and confidence to capture their first major footballtitle and prevent Japan from winning a record fourth Asian Cupin the final here tomorrow.

The Socceroos go into the final riding high after routingUzbekistan 6-0 in the semifinals on Tuesday. Australia havewon four and drawn one of their five games and scored 13 goalswhile conceding only one.

"It''s great to win something and this is something thatrealistically we can win," says defender Luke Wilkshire.

"We have made the final in only our second attempt so wehave come a long way. It''s a little bit different to the WorldCup but maybe it would be a bit bigger."

Wilkshire was in the team when the Socceroos made it intothe last 16 at the 2006 World Cup, which ranks as the team''stop football achievement so far.

While the margin of victory against Uzbekistan has putthe limelight on Australia''s attack, it''s the team''s defense-- the best in the tournament -- that''s also made a majorcontribution.

"It''s because of our structure," Australia''s German coachHolger Osieck says. "Our defense begins with our forwards, whotry to close the space and prevent the other team fromdeveloping their attacks."

Unlike Australia''s smooth passage through the semifinals,Japan had to endure a draining 120 minutes against archrivalSouth Korea, who scored a 2-2 equaliser in the final minute ofextra time. However, Japan won the penalty shootout 3-0, withgoalkeeper Eiji Kawashima stopping two attempts.

Australia captain Lucas Neill says the contrasting pathsinto the final won''t be on his teammates'' minds.

"We won''t get carried away, the scoreline is rrelevant,"Neill says.

"The fact that we won is important, but the players aregoing to have confidence now in front of goal and we know ifwe can create one chance or a couple of chances then we''ve gota great opportunity for somebody putting the ball in the backof the net.

"At the other end we''ve only let in one goal in fivegames so we''re hard to break down too, so you can''t ask forany more going into a final."

Another incentive for Australia is the chance to defendthe title on home soil -- it will host the 2015 Cup.

Japan won their first Asian Cup as a first-time host in1992, and beat Saudi Arabia again in the 2000 final. Japandefeated China in the 2004 final. The Japanese endedAustralia''s Asian Cup debut in the quarterfinals four yearsago, but ended fourth.

Japan have never lost in an Asian final, but it will bewithout star midfielder Shinji Kagawa, who broke his rightfoot against South Korea.

Alberto Zaccheroni, Japan''s Italian coach, could end upwith a title in his first tournament since taking over afterlast year''s World Cup. (AP) AH

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