FOOTBALL: A breakthrough triumph for host nation Australia capped off the most watched AFC Asian Cup ever, marking the 2015 tournament as a milestone event in Australian and Asian sporting history.
The Socceroos' 2-1 victory over Korea Republic before a 76,000-plus full house at Sydney's Stadium Australia set the seal on a tournament that smashed viewing records and set new benchmarks for colour, passion, inclusiveness and exemplary crowd behaviour.
The victory by Mile Jedinak's team delivered Australian football's greatest prize, writing a fairytale ending to the biggest football event ever staged Down Under – 32 matches in 23 days between Asia's best 16 teams.
The glittering final was the eighth sell-out of the tournament, pushing the aggregate attendance to a staggering 650,000, or more than 20,000 per match.
This smashed the ambitious 500,000 target and far surpassed the 421,000 who watched in Qatar in 2011.
The event's widespread appeal was reflected in sell-out crowds in all five host cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Newcastle – and the fact that non-Socceroos games drew more than 380,000 fans.
Three of the sell-outs involved teams other than the host nation – China v DPR Korea in Canberra, Japan v Jordan in Melbourne and Korea Republic v Uzbekistan, also in Melbourne.
The 2015 AFC Asian Cup reached a worldwide TV audience in excess of one billion, with figures still to come in for the final.
In China, Asia's biggest market, the cumulative average viewership (the number watching at any given time) was 182 million by the end of the semi-final stage, and the cumulative reach (the number watching any part of the games) totalled 950 million.
In Japan, average viewership peaked at 21 million during Japan's quarter-final defeat to the United Arab Emirates.
In Korea, the Taegeuk Warriors' semi-final victory over Iraq achieved a reach of 18.2 million, representing 37 per cent of the country's population.
Television viewership in Australia averaged almost one million for the Socceroos' semi-final win over UAE, with a reach of 2.5 million.
On social media, the event's official #AC2015 Twitter hashtag reach was 2.69 billion at the end of the semi-finals.
The first Asian Cup on Australian soil also delivered a legacy of several million dollars worth of improvements to pitches, stadiums and football facilities around Australia, helped grow Football Federation Australia's "football family" and leaves behind an ongoing education program which has already helped more than 50,000 primary school students learn more about Asia.
"This Asian Cup has been a nation-building exercise in every sense of the term," said Local Organising Committee CEO Michael Brown.
"Its benefits will be felt for many years to come.
"It has significantly reinforced the positive perceptions about Australia throughout Asia, attracted tens of thousands of tourists and delivered an estimated $A23 million boost to Australia's GDP.
"Our business matching program, carried out in conjunction with Austrade, is already opening many new doors for Australian companies throughout Asia.
"I am proud of everything we have achieved," said Mr Brown.
"I am proud of the fans, all 650,000 of them, for bringing such excitement, fun and great sportsmanship to this event; I am proud of our LOC staff for staging such a magnificent tournament; I am proud of our star-studded team of ambassadors, and of our fabulous team of 1,300 volunteers for giving such a great Aussie welcome to the whole of Asia.
"The LOC took great efforts to engage Australia's diverse multicultural communities, and I'm glad to say they have embraced the event in turn. A number of teams have commented that the crowd support in Australia made them feel like they were playing at home, which is great feedback for us and a real measure of success.
"All in all, this tournament has exceeded our wildest dreams.
"I hope everyone it has touched can say, like me, it has been one of the experiences of a lifetime, something they will never forget."
Asian Cup Release