AFC Asian Cup expectations rising

Kuala Lumpur, Jan 9, 2014: The clock counting down towards the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 kick-off ticked over to one year to go on Thursday, with Asian Football Confederation President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa promising to deliver a world class festival of football.

Australia will host the 16-team tournament from January 9-31, 2015 in five venues, with Melbourne hosting the opening game and the final being played at Stadium Australia in Sydney a little more than three weeks later.

To mark the One Year To Go point, the tournament’s official website – www.afcasiancup.com – has been launched and a host of events took place across Australia to celebrate and promote Asia’s largest football event.

“There can be no doubt that, as the finals of the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 grow ever closer, the excitement within the Asian football family is increasing by the day,” Shaikh Salman said.

“The history of the AFC Asian Cup brims over with fantastic feats achieved by the continent’s finest since the inaugural tournament back in 1956 and Australia 2015 will surely add another thrilling chapter.

“Today we celebrate not only entering the final phase of preparations, but also the launch of the tournament’s official website, where every aspect of the event – from the ongoing preparations to coverage of the finals themselves – will be available for fans from all over the world to view.

“I’m confident through the efforts of our hosts, Australia, and the talent of our leading players and teams we will witness a world class event that is sure to rival, if not surpass, all previous editions of the competition.”

Australia national team coach, Ange Postecogelu was joined by Captain Lucas Neill at a media event in Melbourne’s Federation Square to promote the tournament, and the Socceroos’ coach called for Australians to come together in a united national effort to support AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015.

“The Socceroos are the people’s team, and the AFC Asian Cup is the people’s tournament,” said Postecogelu. “This is a chance for Australia to shine on and off the field.

“We are one of the most multicultural nations on earth, and for the first time we are hosting the top 16 teams in the world’s biggest region.

“First we have the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, then six months later we host the AFC Asian Cup. Australian football has never known a time quite as exciting as this.”

Michael Brown, CEO of the AFC Asian Cup Local Organising Committee, said the tournament was the biggest single-sport event in Asia.

“At this time next year the AFC Asian Cup will be in full swing as the Socceroos kick off the tournament in Melbourne,” Mr Brown said.

“We want to give the warmest of welcomes to all of Asia’s top teams, and deliver a tournament that celebrates Asia’s rich football culture.

“It will be a summer festival of football never to forget – 32 matches in 23 days across our five host cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle.

“And we want all Australians, no matter their heritage, to unite for the Asian Cup and give our visitors a uniquely Australian welcome and a fantastic Australian experience.”

The LOC hosted a One Year To Go event in Melbourne’s Federation Square, where young footballers with heritage from throughout Asia took part in mini-games on a synthetic pitch with the AFC Asian Cup trophy on display.

The Asian Cup will take place from January 9-31, 2015 in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle.

Twelve nations have already qualified – Australia as hosts, defending champions Japan, Korea Republic and 2012 AFC Challenge Cup winners DPR Korea, along with recent qualifiers Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.

A further four spots are at stake, one in the AFC Challenge Cup and a further three via the qualifiers which will culminate next March prior to the draw. The draw for the tournament will take place at the Sydney Opera House on March 26. —- AFC

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