By DAN KARELL
With one game remaining, Australia has lived up to the pressure and expectations of hosting Asia’s biggest soccer tournament.
The Socceroos defeated the United Arab Emirates, 2-0, early Tuesday morning to advance to the AFC Asian Cup final, set to take place on Saturday in the NFL-sized Stadium Australia in Sydney. Australia will face South Korea in the final after the Koreans defeated Iraq in the semifinals on Monday.
Australia got off to a perfect start when it took the lead just three minutes into the match. Defender Trent Sainsbury found himself unmarked in the box, with two UAE defenders shadowing Tim Cahill, and Sainsbury expertly headed home a corner kick into the corner to give the Socceroos a lead.
The hosts doubled their advantage in the 14th minute, as left back Jason Davidson placed a side-footed shot past UAE goalkeeper Majed Naser. Massimo Luongo assisted on both Australia goals.
The UAE came close on two occasions from Ahmed Khalil, but one strike hit the base of the post and another whizzed just wide.
Here are some more stories to kick off your Tuesday:
AFRICA SUPPORTS SEPP BLATTER, SAYS GHANA FA PRESIDENT
Sepp Blatter will have the support of the African soccer confederation and its member nations in the upcoming FIFA president elections, according to a number of Confederation of African Football executive committee members.
Although Blatter is set to be challenged by Prince Ali of Jordan, Jerome Champagne of France, and possibly Michel Van Praag of the Netherlands, the Ghanaian FA president believes that the entirety of Africa will vote to keep the current FIFA president in charge.
“Africa is solidly behind Blatter. You will find he is very popular on the continent,” Kwesi Nyantakyi, president of the Ghana FA and an ExCo member of the CAF told Reuters.
Former South Africa FA president Molefi Oliphant also backed the embattled FIFA leader.
“The continent is united behind him,” Oliphant said. “We made a formal endorsement of his candidacy last year at our meeting in Rio de Janeiro already.”
AGREEMENT BETWEEN AC MILAN AND AS ROMA FOR MATTIA DESTRO
AS Roma forward Mattia Destro could be days away from featuring for the Rossoneri.
AC Milan is desperate for added depth up front after Stephen El Shaarawy suffered a broken foot and has turned its focus south to Rome, reportedly coming to an agreement to sign Destro. The latest reports from Sky Italia state that Destro will join Milan on a loan for the rest of the season with an option to purchase in the summer.
The loan will reportedly cost AC Milan €700,000 and the option to buy would be upwards of €16.5 million, according to Sky.
Destro, 23, has scored five goals in 16 Serie A appearances this season, playing mostly second fiddle in the lineup to Francesco Totti up top.
AC Milan defender Philippe Mexes has been banned for four games after grabbing Lazio midfielder Stefano Mauri’s throat during a recent match. Mexes was sent off for the offense. (REPORT)
Former Ivory Coast international Didier Ya Konan has returned to Hannover 96 on a six-month contract with an option year. (REPORT)
Villarreal have confirmed the loan signing of Joel Campbell from Arsenal. (REPORT)
Danish international Jannik Verstergaard has completed a full transfer from Hoffenheim to Werder Bremen and has signed a three-and-a-half year contract. (REPORT)
Former Lyon and Monterrey forward Cesar “Chelito” Delgado has signed for Rosario Central in Argentina. (REPORT)
Morocco has announced a friendly with Edinson Cavani and Uruguay set to take place in Agadir, Morocco on March 28. (REPORT)
What do you think of these reports? Do you see Australia winning the Asian Cup? Do you see Blatter winning enough votes outside of Africa?
Share your thoughts below.