MVP award ‘the icing on the cake’ for livewire Luongo
Sydney: Massimo Luongo emerged as the star of the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 as the Socceroos midfielder not only found the back of the net in the final as Australia secured the title, but also won the Most Valuable Player Award presented by Toyota.
The Swindon Town midfielder scored twice over the duration of the tournament, including Australia’s opener against Korea Republic in the tournament decider, as he marked an incredible rise on the international stage with several eye-catching displays.
It has been a remarkable rise for a player who only made his debut for Australia in March last year in a 4-3 friendly defeat at the hands of Ecuador in London.
Although he was included in the squad for the FIFA World Cup finals, Luongo did not feature in Brazil and only became a regular in the national team starting line-up during Australia 2015.
Now, though, he joins the likes of Khodadad Azizi, Hiroshi Nanami and Keisuke Honda in the pantheon of Asian football stars crowned the Most Valuable Player at the continental championship.
“It’s been a good one, obviously expectations for myself weren’t as much as I got but that’s the way it goes,” Luongo said of the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015. “I’m so thankful for what has happened at this tournament and all the boys did really well.
“(The fans) delivered, there were almost 80,000 and the atmosphere was unbelievable. For me to be a part of it, part of the silverware that we got, is special and to get a goal is even more special, it’s like a dream.”
Luongo’s 44th minute goal gave the Socceroos the lead in the final, the 22-year-old hitting the back of the net with a fine effort after turning Ki Sung-yueng in midfield before unleashing a right-foot shot that Kim Jin-hyeon could do little to stop as it flew into the bottom corner.
“It was a great ball from Trent (Sainsbury), and I was just hovering in the pocket,” he said. “The ball was nice, my first touch opened up straight away.
“I looked like I was running at the centrebacks but all I had in my mind was to shoot. The boys were saying it bobbled up a bit, but I caught it sweetly and all I saw was it hit the back of the net.
“I was in the best position to shoot and I don’t want to give up that opportunity. When I see the centrebacks going back I just want to take it, and it went in so I was happy.”
He will now return to his club in England’s League One, with speculation rampant he will move to bigger and better things in the near future, and Luongo believes his performance at the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 allowed him to put his capabilities on full display.
“If anything it has shown what type of player I am and in the right team I can shine,” he said. “I’m always confident in myself but this is just the icing on the cake.”