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‘This is our turn. This is our chance … this can be it’

All his life, Tim Cahill has heard it: soccer in Australia is coming.

And now, it’s arrival time, the star Socceroo says.

Cahill believes the Asian Cup on home soil can deliver soccer its biggest ever boost in Australia.

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“I don’t think a lot of the public really understand how big this tournament is,” Cahill said.

“To be given the opportunity to potentially, and I say potentially with a capital P, win it … it will affect football in Australia in a way that can never be affected in any sport.

... and 2014. Photos: Getty

Tim Cahill, the golden boy of Australian football. Photo: Getty

“I know we have done well in other codes.

“But this is our turn. This is our chance … this can be it.”

Australia enters the 16-nation Asian Cup starting on Friday not only hoping to win the trophy, but also to win hearts and minds of the nation’s public.

The lofty goals don’t match the Socceroos’ lowly status – ranked 100th in the world and 10th of the competing Asian countries.

Australia’s main rivals appear powerhouses Japan, South Korea and Iran, who are Asia’s top-ranked country entering the tournament.

Defending champions Japan are the only country to defeat Australia in the host nation’s two previous Asian Cups – in the 2011 final and a 2007 quarter-final.

The Blue Samurai, with a talent-laden roster boasting stars of some of the world’s biggest domestic leagues, are bidding to win the cup for a fifth time.

Japan has triumphed in four of the past six editions of a tournament which started in 1956, two years after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) was formed.

The stiff competition has Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak wary but not worried – like Cahill, he reckons the cup can give the sport an unprecedented lift in Australia.

“It’s going to be amazing,” Jedinak said.

“And it’s something that I think everyone is going to get behind, not just the people in the stadium. You will see the whole nation will be really behind us and that is something that gives you goose bumps.

“Outside of the World Cup, it’s the biggest tournament that we can hold. For the football community, we can comprehend that.

“And I’m sure when it all kicks off, you’re going to see a lot of other people stop and think ‘wow, this is a huge deal’.”

Australia opens the tournament on Friday in Melbourne with a fixture against Kuwait, the first of 32 matches in 23 days.

The AFC estimate 800 million people in more than 120 countries will watch television coverage of cup games in five host cities – Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Newcastle and Canberra.

Australia at the Asian Cup

Tournaments: 2 (2007, 2011)
Games: 10 (5 wins 3 draws 2 losses)

2007
v Oman 1-1
v Iraq 1-3
v Thailand 4-0
(quarter-final) v Japan 1-1 (lost 3-4 on penalties)
Goalscorers: Mark Viduka 3, John Aloisi, Michael Beauchamp, Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell

2011
v India 4-0
v Korea Republic 1-1
v Bahrain 1-0
(quarter-final) v Iraq 1-0
(semi-final) v Uzbekistan 6-0
(final) v Japan 0-1 (extra time)

Goalscorers: Harry Kewell 3, Tim Cahill 2, Mile Jedinak 2, David Carney, Brett Emerton, Brett Holman, Robbie Kruse, Sasa Ognenovski, Carl Valeri.

– AAP

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