Hosts Australia show Asian Cup intentions
(Tim Cahill 33, Massimo Luongo 44,
Mile Jedinak 62-pen, James Troisi 90+2)
(Hussain Fadhel 8)
Hosts Australia got the explosive start that they were looking for to the Asian Cup.
There was the gutsy fightback against a Kuwaiti side who took the lead.
There was the unmistakable hunger to live up to the expectations of the home fans.
And there was even a reminder of what veteran striker Tim Cahill is still capable of at the international level.
The 4-1 victory in their opening Group A match at Aami Park in Melbourne yesterday will go some way towards quelling Australian fans' fears that they are not good enough to lift the trophy in a competition they are hosting for the first time.
Make no mistake. This may be a team in transition, but Ange Postecoglou's men are well capable of lifting the trophy.
The performance might have fallen just short of a five-star display, but there were enough positives to suggest that there is life after the "Golden Generation" featuring the likes of Mark Schwarzer, Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka.
It took one of the last few survivors to start the ball rolling, however.
The Socceroos were stunned as early as the eighth minute when Kuwait's Hussain Fadhel headed in the first goal of the tournament.
The hosts' response packed determination, but lacked finesse and incision. They needed a leader to guide them out of the quagmire.
Stepped forward Cahill. His commitment to his country cannot be doubted.
The 35-year-old was so determined to play in the Asian Cup that he told his Major League Soccer club New York Red Bulls to take it or leave it, when they became increasingly annoyed by his international commitments.
Despite being the elder statesman of the team, Cahill continues to deliver at the highest level, which is why the Australians put him on a pedestal.
When heads began to drop, the veteran forward looked up, anticipated the cross, and met Massimo Luongo's square passto pull the Aussies level in the 33rd minute.
It proved to be the turning point.
With the nerves settled, Australia began stroking the ball around with confidence.
Just before half-time, the impressive Luongo turned goal-scorer, nodding the ball in to give his side a 2-1 lead.
A penalty by Mile Jedinak and a close-range strike by James Troisi after the break completed the impressive scoreline, leaving the home fans to celebrate a winning start.
A decade ago, this would have been an even more leisurely stroll in the park, and Kuwait a mere obstacle to be brushed aside, but Australia have moved on from arguably their most glorious era.
The generation of Schwarzer, Kewell and Viduka is history, survived by only the evergreen Cahill, a 34-year-old Mark Bresciano who came on as a late substitute, and a 29-year-old Mark Milligan who didn't even get to see any action.
But this Australia side look ready to step out of those very long shadows.
Jedinak's midfield performance was masterful, Luongo's all-action midfield display saw him finish with the most tackles and interceptions on the pitch, and right back Ivan Franjic looked like a star in the making.
Not forgetting Cahill, who has scored nine of Australia's 16 goals since Postecoglou took over as coach in 2013.
The past may be still worth reminiscing about. But the future sure doesn't lack promise.