Kewell aiming to atone for Aussies' World Cup flop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 January, 2011, 12:00am

Two games into Australia's challenge for the 2011 Asian Cup, and already Harry Kewell has spent more time on the pitch than he did during the Socceroos' doomed stint at the World Cup finals last year.

Kewell endured a torrid time in South Africa, missing Australia's first game against Germany through injury before being sent off midway through the first half of the clash against Ghana for a harshly judged handball incident.

That meant the former Leeds United and Liverpool man missed the Socceroos' final group match, a 2-1 win over Serbia which was not enough to secure a place in the knockout phase of the finals for a second tournament in a row.

In the eyes of many, that meant Australia's challenge in South Africa was a dismal failure, even though the nation only missed out on a place in the round of 16 by virtue of a worse goal difference than eventual quarter-finalists Ghana.

Seven months on, Kewell is leading the attacking line for a renewed assault on the Asian title under Holger Osieck, with the Galatasaray man used in attack by the German coach in the entertaining 1-1 draw with South Korea.

'I enjoyed it,' said Kewell after the game. 'A few of the media have been saying it was the best game they've seen so far, it was physical, there were chances and all that. It was good to get out there and have a bit of a rough and tumble.'

Kewell looked sharp, fit and above all motivated in the clash against one of the other tournament favourites, with his performance only blighted by several missed chances in the first half that, had he converted them, would have changed significantly the complexion of the game.

The 32-year-old, however, is relishing the challenge as the Australians aim to put the disappointment of their previous appearance in the Asian Cup - when they were knocked out in the quarter-finals - behind him.

'I feel good,' he said. 'This time I've had six months of training to get into this competition. The adrenaline is still pumping up, but I copped a few little kicks here and there so in a few hours I could be feeling a little sore but we've got a great medical staff. I've got my guy here so it should be fine. I'm disappointed in myself.

'You have chances in a competition like that and you've got to put them away. The manager put me up front for a reason to finish the chances and I kind of let the team down today. I'm going to pick myself up and make sure I'm not going to mess it up.'

Australia's meeting with the South Koreans was being billed as a dress rehearsal for the January 29 final, which will be played at Doha's Khalifa Stadium, and Everton midfielder Tim Cahill was ruing the chances he thought the Socceroos should have converted.

'It's disappointing, but also one of those things where if we finished our chances like myself or Harry or whoever, we would have won the game,' he said.

'It was a weird game and it was surprising to see some of their tactics. To be honest with you, they can have all the big centre-backs they want but we had so many chances. We weren't stopped; we missed the chances.'