Australia’s 88th Minute EAFF Winner

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Rhys Williams towered above the Japanese defence to head home a corner in the 88th minute of the winner-takes-all EAFF East Asian Cup final group match between Australia and Japan in Seoul tonight.

Going into the final round of matches in the four-nation, round-robin group, Japan sat top with 6 points and Australia had 4 points from two games apiece. Rather than attack from the off and put the pressure on Australia in their first EAFF tournament, Japan were happy to sit back and try and counter. Australia though were happy to bide their time and work openings through the packed Japanese defence when and where they could.

Eventually, with time running out in the stalemate that would see Japan lift their first East Asian Cup, Brett Emerton hit a rasping volley from 25 yards which was deflected over the top. From the resultant corner, Williams stole a yard on his marker and powered a bullet header into the back of the net. Despite six minutes of stoppage time being played, Japan didn’t have the legs or the possession needed to carve out the chance of a tournament-winning equaliser.

Dortmund ‘keeper Mitchell Langerak was with the Australian squad for the final stages but was an unused substitute for all three matches.

Australia finish top of the Final Group Stage with 7 points, Japan runners-up with 6. In the other group match, South Korea came from behind to beat China 2-1, condemning their opponents to three straight defeats in the final group stage.

EAFF East Asian Cup Final Rankings
 Pos  Team         P W D L GD  Pts
 1st  Australia    3 2 1 0 +3   7
 2nd  Japan        3 2 0 1 +2   6
 3rd  South Korea  3 1 1 1 +0   4
 4th  China        3 0 0 3 -5   0
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 5th  Hong Kong      (Qual.Rnd) 9
 6th  North Korea    (Qual.Rnd) 6
 7th  Chinese Taipai (Qual.Rnd) 3
 8th  Macau          (Qual.Rnd) 0
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 9th  Mongolia       (PrelimRd) 3
10th  Guam           (PrelimRd) 1
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