Drama in Southeast Asia: Upsets, Numbers and Notable Firsts at the 2007 Asian Cup
The 2007 Asian Cup witnessed stories unfold across Southeast Asia throughout July. The tournament featured Australia in Asia's premier continental competition for the first time since its move from Oceania. Australia, along with some of Asia's major heavyweights, stumbled throughout the tournament.
Instead, a tournament that began with Iraq playing co-host Thailand ended with the same nation upsetting Saudi Arabia to win 2007 Asian Cup. While many nations' journeys were filled with disappointment of what could have been, Iraq's journey was a culmination of three years of hard work that began after the nation finished fourth in unlikely fashion at Athens at the Football Tournament of the 2004 Summer Olympics.
Three Years Make a Difference
After finishing up as runners-up when it hosted the 2004 edition, China looked to improve as Hang Peng and Wang Dong each scored twice in its opening match against Malaysia. China's 5-1 victory was a good start, and a member of China's 2002 World Cup squad, Shao Jiayi opened the scoring against Iran in the next match. Mao Jianqing doubled China's lead, and China looked to have one foot in a quarterfinal spot.
However, Iran scored right before halftime, and any momentum China had evaporated after it allowed a tying goal to finish its match 2-2. In its group stage finale, China would have been going into the quarter-finals after 70 minutes against Uzbekistan in Shah Alam. China endured a miserable final 20 minutes, and the result saw China eliminated from the group stage for the first time since 1980.
Another semi-finalist suffered an early exit, especially for a nation that finished fourth three years ago. But Bahrain suffered a stunning loss against Indonesia ahead of its match against South Korea. The second game would be a case of déjà vu; the only time Bahrain defeated South Korea came on June 17, 1988, in Jakarta, Indonesia, a result that helped Bahrain reach its first Asian Cup that year.
Nineteen years on, the nations met again in Jakarta, but South Korea scored in the fourth minute before Bahrain tied the match before the drama unfolded late in the game. Ismael Abdul-Latif scored his first goal for Bahrain in the 85th minute. Three years after its first victory in the Asian Cup, Bahrain was in control of another quarter-final berth.
Unfortunately, Bahrain lost momentum against Saudi Arabia and crashed out after losing 4-0.
Tough Breaks and Early Elimination
Along with Bahrain, three West Asian nations exited early. Less than six months earlier, Badar Al-Maimani scored to send Oman to the 2007 Gulf Cup Final at Bahrain's expense. Al-Maimani scored in the 32nd minute to hand Oman a shock lead against Australia as they were on course for an impressive result.
However, Oman allowed a tying goal in stoppage time and never recovered as Oman recorded two draws as Al-Maimani scored the team's only goal of the tournament.
Qatar and the United Arab Emirates hoped to reach the quarter-finals as well. It last won an Asian Cup match on Dec. 12, 1988, as hosts, but Qatar last earned an Asian Cup victory away from home on Dec. 10, 1984.
Qatar had a naturalized player from Uruguay that guided the Arab nation. Sebastian Soria score his first goals for Qatar, with each goal coming at pivotal moments. Soria's first two goals salvaged 1-1 draws against Japan and Vietnam, while his third goal put Qatar up against the United Arab Emirates on a penalty kick in Ho Chi Minh City.
Qatar looked to qualify for the quarter-finals until the United Arab Emirates scored the tying goal before it confirmed Qatar's elimination thanks to a stoppage time goal from Faisal Khalil. The 2-1 victory for the United Arab Emirates was the nation's first tournament win away from home since Nov. 3, 1992.
For the United Arab Emirates, the victory was a consolation for a team expecting to do better.
Five years ago, he led Senegal to a quarter-final appearance at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Early in 2007, Bruno Metsu guided the United Arab Emirates to its first Gulf Cup title. The United Arab Emirates had decent results ahead of the tournament, including a 2-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in Singapore. However, the United Arab Emirates suffered a shocking 2-0 loss against Vietnam. Then, the United Arab Emirates trailed 3-0 to Japan before a consolation goal from Saeed Al-Kass.
The United Arab Emirates were the first team eliminated from the tournament.
The Tournament's Opening Goal
Upset at Hanoi
Mixed Results for the Co-Hosts
Four Southeast Asian nations that hosted the 2007 Asian Cup also happened to be the tournament's lowest-ranked nations among the 16 participants: Thailand (122nd), Vietnam (142nd), Indonesia (143rd) and Malaysia (149th). Each country sought to cause a stir, especially for co-host Thailand, as it Thailand kicked off the tournament on July 7 against Iraq. Thailand received an early present when they received a penalty kick. Sumee Suksomkit scored the competition's first goal on the ensuing penalty kick. Thailand did allow an equalizing goal to finish its match 1-1. Six days later, Thailand made history against Oman with two goals from Pipat Thonkaya asThailand recorded its first victory over Oman in nearly six years.
Unfortunately, Thailand’s hopes of a shock quarter-final berth came to a disastrous ending against Australia. Thailand only trailed 1-0 with 80 minutes elapsed before three goals sent Thailand reeling out of the tournament.
Playing in its fourth straight Asian Cup, Indonesia won its opening game for the second successive tournament. A 2-1 victory against Bahrain meant Indonesia avenged its loss that saw the archipelago nation eliminated from the 2004 Asian Cup. Budi Sudarsono and Bambang Pamungkas scored the goals to secure Indonesia's first victory over Bahrain since Aug. 27, 1980. Indonesia looked to have a good chance of reaching the quarter-finals, only to allow a late goal by as Indonesia a 2-1 loss. Indonesia could not get any offense going against South Korea as it lost 1-0.
However, Indonesia made history in both losses as attendance in Jakarta reached 88,000 people. These matches became the most attended ever in Asian Cup history to date.
Malaysia looked to win a game at the Asian Cup match, having last done so on Sept. 20, 1980. Instead, Malaysia finished the tournament as the only nation to lose all three group stage matches. The nation had one bright spot, courtesy of Indra Putra Mahayuddin. He had not scored for Malaysia in nearly a year, but Indra Putra scored as his country trailed China 4-0 to China in its opening match.
That was the only goal Malaysia scored as it allowed 12 goals and attained no points.
Finally, Vietnam played its tournament as a unified nation, looking to continue its improvement after suffering its lowest ever ranking at 172nd in December 2006. Vietnam recorded two victories over Jamaica (3-0) and Bahrain (5-3) before the tournament.
Both matches came at Hanoi My Ðinh National Stadium. Vietnam played its three group stage games there as well. It hung in with the United Arab Emirates in its first match for over an hour, but Vietnam got the breakthrough when defender Huynh Quang Thanh scored his first ever goal for Vietnam. He and Phan Thanh Binh combined for seven goals in a match against Laos earlier in the year; in the 73rd minute, Le Cong Vinh added a goal to seal Vietnam's 2-0 victory.
Vietnam opened the scoring in all three games in the group stage. Thanh Binh scoring against Qatar before Japan's Keita Suzuki scored an own goal to put Vietnam ahead after eight minutes. Vietnam only managed four points, but with Qatar’s loss to the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam advanced to the quarter-finals
There, Vietnam fell early to Iraq and despite a brave effort lost 2-0 and were eliminated.
It's Germany All Over Again
Uzbekistan's Five Goal Performance
Penalty Heartbreak and Tough Tasks
Vietnam reached the quarter-finals, as did another nation many expected to win the tournament. However, Australia stumbled in its first venture at the Asian Cup. A year earlier, he scored Australia's first World Cup goal in Kaiserslautern, Germany. In Bangkok, Tim Cahill scored Australia's first Asian Cup goal - a goal that that spared Australia's blushes as it salvaged a 1-1 draw with Oman.
Australia's campaign got worse after a 3-1 loss against Iraq and were in danger of an early elimination. However, against Thailand, Australia got a breakthrough in which a player redeemed himself as well. He once infamously scored a late own goal after coming on against Paraguay last October, but Michael Beauchamp scored his first goal for Australia in the 21st minute. Australia still was only leading 1-0 with 10 minutes remaining until two goals by Mark Viduka in a four-minute span and a 90th-minute goal by Harry Kewell sent Australia into the quarter-finals.
There, Australia took the lead against Japan. He scored when the teams met at the World Cup in 2006, and John Aloisi scored once again in the 70th minute, only for Japan to tie after two minutes. Australia failed to repeat another scalp against Japan as the game went into a penalty shootout. Australia paid dearly when Kewell and Lucas Neill missed the country's first two attempts and lost 4-3 in the shootout.
That was the first time goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer lost in a penalty shootout.
Also eliminated via a penalty shootout was Iran, looking to win the tournament for the first time in 31 years. Iran trailed early against Uzbekistan before winning 2-1 with goals from Jalal Hosseini, who scored his first ever international goal for Iran, and Javad Kazemian, who scored his first goal in four years.
Iran trailed once again as it fell behind to 2-0 China. But Ferydoon Zandi scored before halftime on a free kick to make it 2-1 before Javad Nekounam tied the match as the game ended in a 2-2 draw. Nekounam added a penalty to open the scoring against Malaysia before Andranik Teymourian scored to give Iran a 2-0 victory and the group as well.
Iran's quarter-final featured a familiar opponent in one of Asia's best rivalry was revisited. Also to two 2007 Asian Cup qualifiers, Iran and South Korea met in the Asian Cup quarter-finals for a fourth straight tournament. For the first time in 30 years, the two teams played to a scoreless draw and with captain Mehdi Mahdavikia missing on his nation's second attempt, Iran lost to South Korea 4-2 in the shootout.
Joining Iran out of Group C into the quarter-finals was Uzbekistan, who a year ago reached its highest ever ranking at 45th, which included defeating Iraq 2-0 before this tournament. Despite its loss to Iran, Uzbekistan won its next two games thanks to the offense. Uzbekistan scored only five goals in the 2004 Asian Cup, a number the nation would match in Kuala Lumpur's Bukit Jalil Stadium against co-host Malaysia - Maksim Shatskikh opening and closing the scoring.
Also scoring in that match was Timur Kapadze, who last scored for his country in four years. He, along with Shatskikh and Alexander Geynrikh, helped Uzbekistan reach the quarter-finals with an impressive finish against China.
Uzbekistan hoped to repeat its victory of Saudi Arabia from three years earlier in the tournament. However, that would not happen as Uzbekistan lost 2-1 to Saudi Arabia.
Defending Champions Disappoint
Before this tournament, the defending champion often had an automatic place in the next Asian Cup. With four co-hosts assured of a berth for 2007, Japan had to go through a qualifying campaign, the first for a defending champion.
Japan struggled in the tournament as it opened the tournament with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Qatar. It was a match that saw its manager called out his players as "amateurs." Japan rallied and topped its group with comfortable victories over the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. Those were the only victories Japan had in the tournament.
Having scored three times in the group stage, Naohiro Takahara added a fourth goal in the quarter-final against Australia to tie the match. Takahara missed his penalty attempt when the game went into a shootout, but goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi made two saves to help Japan advance.
Japan faced Saudi Arabia in a semi-final after the teams had met twice in qualifying, with each winning at home. Japan was looking to continue its success against Saudi Arabia after defeating them twice in the tournament in 2000 and against in 1992. However, despite coming back twice to tie the match, Japan lost 3-2. It still had a chance to finish third in the tournament as it faced South Korea. However, that game went into a penalty shootout, and Naotake Hanyu missed his attempt as Japan lost 6-5 in the shootout.
The Number Three
Some Asian countries often view odd numbers as lucky. For South Korea, three was more than a lucky number in its culture. It was this number that became South Korea's theme to the 2007 Asian Cup. South Korea was looking to win its third Asian Cup after having won the first two editions in 1956 and 1960. South Korea, which also finished as runners-up on three previous occasions, finished in third place for the third time.
South Korea scored only three goals throughout the tournament. Three different players scored a goal in a group stage game: Choi Sung-kuk (against Saudi Arabia), Kim Do-heon (against Bahrain) and Kim Jung-woo (against Indonesia). Jung-woo scored his first ever goal for South Korea in its third match of the tournament, which was enough to send South Korea through to the quarter-finals.
South Korea allowed three goals in the tournament, all in the group stage.
South Korea also recorded three straight scoreless draws in the knockout phase and played in three consecutive penalty shootouts. Kim Jung-woo scored the winning penalty kick against Iran before missing the game-tying attempt against Iraq. Lee Chun-soo scored in all three shootouts.
For South Korea, three was the prime number at the 2007 Asian Cup.
So Close to Redemption
Saudi Arabia sought redemption after its 2004 performance in which its only point of the tournament came in a 2-2 draw against debutantes Turkmenistan. A year earlier, Saudi Arabia was at its fourth World Cup with a 34th ranking; after its elimination, Saudi Arabia dropped to 81st, its worst movement ever.
Saudi Arabia rebounded from that drop as, despite an opening draw against South Korea, Saudi Arabia rallied to win its group. Yasser Al-Qahtani finished with four goals in the tournament, but it was a key goal happened in Jakarta's Gelora Bung Karno Stadium that got Saudi Arabia back on track.
He scored his first ever goal at this stadium against Sri Lanka in a World Cup qualifier, but Saad Al-Harthi scored in the 90th minute to break a 1-1 draw against Indonesia to take control of the group. In the next game, Saudi Arabia had three players score their first ever goals for their countries. Ahmed Al-Mousa and Abdulrahman Al-Qahtani scored in the first half before two goals from Taisir Al-Jassim gave Saudi Arabia an emphatic 4-0 victory. Saudi Arabia avenged its loss to Uzbekistan from 2004 before upsetting Japan in the semi-finals.
However, Saudi Arabia would not win its fourth Asian Cup.
Shocker in Jakarta
The most significant story at the 2007 Asian Cup saw a nation strife in war and struggling to find an identity. It was a country that despite celebrations in its semi-final victory, the world watched in horror as its people were dying.
Iraq's road to Jakarta somewhat began in earnest in Athens and some ways in Chengdu, China on July 26, 2004. On this date, Younis Mahmoud scored the winning goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the 2004 Asian Cup. In the following month, Iraq played in its first Olympic tournament since 1988. Mahmoud was one of those players as he scored in a 4-2 upset of Portugal. Iraq qualified for its first quarter-finals since 1980. There, Iraq stunned fans with its victory against Australia as the nation finished fourth in the tournament.
Iraq started in inauspicious fashion in losing at Singapore 2-0 but recovered to finish ahead of China in its group. Most of the 2004 squad played in this tournament. That included Mahmoud, who tied the match against Thailand before Iraq upset Australia 3-1 in the team’s second game with Nashat Akram, Hawar Mulla Mohammed, Karrar Jassim scoring for Iraq. Karrar recorded his first goal for Iraq, whose scoreless draw against Oman gave Iraq the group.
Noor Sabri helped keep opponents at bay as Iraq allowed only two goals during the tournament, including his efforts against South Korea in the semi-final. But Mahmoud proved to be valuable. In addition to his goal against Thailand, Mahmoud scored both goals against Vietnam in the quarter-finals as well as another goal against Saudi Arabia.
This time, it would be the only goal as Iraq won the 2007 Asian Cup.
The 2007 Asian Cup will saw so much unfold: notable firsts, avenging defeats, and new stars emerging. Most importantly, Iraq showed the resilient spirit of a nation amidst unimaginable hardship to win this tournament, proving that it sometimes does not always take a star to make a team famous.
- The AFC Asian Cup 2007 Official Website
ARCHIVED: Relive the 2007 Asian Cup with articles and boxscores from all the action across Southeast Asia
- FFA TV | Milligan reflects on Thai mauling | Socceroos
Socceroos midfielder Mark Milligan looks back on Australia's must win clash with Thailand at the 2007 Asian Cup in Bangkok.