Early this morning, the AFC Asian Cup third place playoff match was played at Newcastle Stadium in Australia: the bout was between semifinal losers Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. The match, which was hotly contested, found the UAE overcoming Iraq 3-2 in regulation.

Now, UAE struck early with Ahmed Khalil scoring in the 16th minute, but Iraq quickly answered with two first half goals — the second coming 42 minutes in by Amjed Kalaf. And despite several early attempts to put the game further away, UAE was able to score two quick second half strikes with the final goal coming on a penalty kick in the 57th minute.

As for the finals, it is between the host nation Australia and the fairly dominant favorite Korea Republic. Kickoff will take place tomorrow morning, roughly 5 am EST.

But the championship game comes with a bit of controversy: as plenty of angry Gulf nations are looking for a reason to kick Australia out of the Asian Football Confederation. The winner of the Asian Cup gets the title of champion of Asia. So besides the geographic problem with calling Australia the champion of Asia, these Gulf nations are complaining that Australia benefits from the Asian Cup involvement, but gives little in return. And at next year’s general assembly, excluding Australia could become a pressing issue.

At the same time, David Gallop, the chief executive of the Football Federation Australia, was quite shocked by these statements. “We are newcomers to AFC but our commitment to participate in competitions, membership of important AFC committees and general sharing of ideas and programs increases every year,” he said.  “We celebrate the diversity of the Asian region and this tournament has shown our contribution can go beyond football to create and foster social and political bridges between key trading partners in the region… Importantly, Australia is also in the top five markets for television rights in the entire confederation.” This basically shows how vital the Australian soccer team could be while moving forward: as more eyes will be watching the tournament with the country’s involvement.

However, Michael Brown, Asian Cups’ local organizing committee’s chief executive stated that the country has to do more: “Asian communities about are face-to-face relationships and building trust. We’ve gone a long way with the Asian Cup but it’s a long journey. This [tournament] is a small step.”

h/t: The Sydney Morning Herald

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