10 greatest national teams to win an international competition as the host nation
9. AFC Asian Cup of Nations 2015 – Australia become the first holders of two continental titles
Fate has an odd way of bringing people to their destiny, but sometimes, we’ve got to give it a little push. Prior to the 2006 World Cup, Australia had only ever qualified for the World Cup in 1974. However, they had been dominating in their continental championship, the OFC Nations Cup for Oceanian countries. With 4 titles out of 6 tournaments held, it became increasingly difficult to find serious challengers amongst the many smaller nations taking part.
After several attempts, the Australian national football team were finally invited to join the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) in March 2005, ending their 40-year association with the OFC. With ex-Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink in charge, they felt confident that they could do something, and they promptly qualified for the Germany 2006 World Cup.
However, their foray into the Asian continental finals did not go as expected (despite a runners-up finish in the 2011 edition), and over the next 9 years, results slowly dipped until they suffered consecutive 6-0 defeats to Brazil & France, culminating in their lowest-ever FIFA ranking (102). Things looked difficult, but new coach Ange Postecoglou had shown some promise – so he began his reconstruction of the national team.
As the sole bidder for the right to host the 2015 Asian Cup, Australia put their newly-furbished team to the test almost immediately. They answered handsomely, smashing Kuwait 4-1 in the opener as inspirational forward Tim Cahill opened the scoring. Oman were next to concede four, but they replied with none. In the final group match, South Korea beat the hosts to top the group – showing them that they still had some room for improvement.
Tim Cahill was again decisive in the quarter-final, netting a brilliant brace to down the Chinese as the Australians advance to the semis, where Sainsbury and Davidson score within 15 minutes to quickly defeat the UAE. In the final, Massimo Luongo scored on the stroke of half-time against their earlier conquerors (South Korea), setting them on their way to victory. In the 91st minute, Son Heung-min shattered Australian dreams with a last-gasp equalizer to force extra-time.
However, they were not to be denied, and James Troisi’s 105th minute goal sealed Australia’s status as Oceanian and Asian champions – a unique achievement at the Stadium of Australia.