Australia make strong statement in Asian Cup opener

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Happy hosts: Australia's Mathew Leckie (L) congratulates Mile Jedinak (C) and Tim Cahill (R) after a goal during the first round Asian Cup football match against Kuwait.

Hosts Australia showed impressive firepower to beat Kuwait 4-1 in their Asian Cup opener on Friday after talisman Tim Cahill kick-started them following an early scare.

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Massimo Luongo, Mile Jedinak and James Troisi were also on target for the Socceroos, who could have scored six or seven and were serenaded with a chorus of "Oles" by a sell-out crowd of 30,000 in Melbourne.

Kuwait had stunned Australia with a goal from Hussain Fadhel after just eight minutes, the big defender stooping to head in a corner and silence the home fans.

But Cahill relieved the tension on a wet and chilly evening by slamming home the equaliser in the 33rd minute after smart work down the right from Luongo.

Luongo put Australia in front moments before half-time with a superb header to give the home side a huge boost going into the break.

Skipper Jedinak stroked home a penalty in the 62nd minute, giving the Socceroos a two-goal cushion as they continued to press, playing with a verve that was sorely missing as they managed just a single win in 11 matches last year.

Troisi poked home a fourth in stoppage time to cap a dominating performance by Ange Postecoglou's side.   

Cahill almost grabbed a second, forcing a superb save from Hameed Youssef on the hour-mark, before Mathew Leckie smashed a left-foot shot against the underside of the bar as the floodgates threatened to open.

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#360LIVE: Asian Cup 2015 – Australia vs Kuwait

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Asian Cup: Writers' predictions

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Star man: Tim Cahill is one of the players expected to stand out in this year's competition.

With the Asian Cup starting on Friday, our reporters give their predictions on how they think this year's tournament will go: 

– 2015 AFC Asian Cup Group A & B: Team-by-team guide

– 2015 AFC Asian Cup Group C & D: Team-by-team guide

Andy Lewis, News Editor
Champions: Australia. Everyone is writing them off, but you could see potential at the World Cup. Being hosts will bring the best out of them, their home record is great and the players have a good mentality for tournament football.

Dark horse: Uzbekistan. Struggle for goals but possess better technical quality and tactical awareness than the majority of teams.
Flop: Saudi Arabia. Just too fractious.
Top goalscorer: Son Heung-min. Will provide the firepower for the Koreans.

Best player: Keisuke Honda. Knows what it takes to perform on the big stage.

Martyn Thomas, Reporter 
Champions: Japan. Possess a squad full of talent and tournament know-how, that a fairly comfortable route to the final is a bonus.
Dark horse: Qatar. Will be full of confidence following their Gulf Cup win.
Flop: UAE. A fit Omar Abdulrahman changes everything, but an early flight home beckons if they replicate Gulf Cup displays.
Top goalscorer: Nasser Al Shamrani. The current Asian Player of the Year is in the form of his life.
Best player: Shinji Kagawa. Event provides chance to remind everyone of his powers.

Matt Monaghan, Reporter 
Champions: Saudi Arabia. Warm-up results have been wretched, but Al Ahli boss Cosmin Olaroiu is a born winner.
Dark horse: Jordan. Came within a play-off of World Cup 2014..
Flop: Australia. Hosts have not replaced past stars and won one of 11 games in 2014.
Top goalscorer: Keisuke Honda. Will fill boots in kind Group D, with champions Japan set to compete until the death.
Best player: Nasser Al Shamrani. If the volatile Asian Footballer of the Year can behave himself, will light up entire competition.

Barny Read, Web reporter
Champions: Japan. It’s hard to look past the tournament’s most successful team.
Dark horse: Qatar. The 2014 Gulf Cup winners could well surprise a few on the continent.
Flop: Australia. Woeful at times over the last 12 months, the Socceroos created some stunning moments at the World Cup but are too inept up to to make an impact.
Top goalscorer: Keisuke Honda.

Best player: Ali Mabkhout. If his Gulf Cup heroics are anything to go by he has the chance to show the world his class.

John Duerden, Asian football expert
Champions: Japan. Have issues but also the strength in depth and the talent to overcome them.
Dark horse: Uzbekistan. Perhaps lack a little firepower but looks to be strong elsewhere on the pitch.
Flop: Jordan. Two quarter finals in last three tournaments and solid 2014 qualification campaign but this time could be tough.
Top goalscorer: Tim Cahill. Australia may worry about relying too much on their star for goals but he does score rather a lot of important ones.

Best player: Son Heung-min. The South Korean is in good form in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League. On his day, unstoppable.

Mark Lomas, Sport360.com managing editor
Champions: Japan. Packed with Europebased talents, including Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Maya Yoshida. The Blue Samurais are a cut above.
Dark horse: Palestine. Nothing expected on debut but motivated to succeed by ongoing domestic turmoil.
Flop: Australia. Home advantage should inspire but lack of quality and woeful recent form doesn’t bode well. Tim Cahill a lone relic of better times.
Top goalscorer: Reza Ghoochannejhad. Iranian has rediscovered his shooting boots on loan at Al Kuwait.
Best player: Son Heung-min. Boasting pace and skill in abundance, Son has shone for Bayer Leverkusen. South Korean’s dynamism will trouble defences Down Under.

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