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Mar 26, 2013

Newcastle to host 2015 Asian Cup semi

It mightn't boast Aussie sporting icons like the MCG or Rod Laver Arena, but Newcastle will play centre stage for some of the world's biggest names in soccer.

The NSW city on Wednesday was announced as host of one of two Asian Cup semi-finals when the tournament hits Australian shores for the first time in 2015.

The 33,000-seat Hunter Stadium will also feature four group matches and the play-off for third and fourth.

"It's a football heartland," said Michael Brown, executive chairman of the Australian AFC Asian Cup local organising committee.

"You've got to think, two A-League teams north of the Hawkesbury ... (while) Newcastle has the second highest A-League membership.

"They're really looking forward for us to take those games to them to celebrate in a regional area."

Newcastle was named host of the key semi-final ahead of Melbourne, arguably Australia's sporting capital, where the Socceroos will kick off their Asian Cup campaign on January 9.

The city's AAMI Park, along with Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium and Canberra Stadium, will each host six group matches and a quarter-final.

But the competition's biggest matches have been reserved for Sydney.

The harbour city will feature a total of seven games at ANZ Stadium, including the Socceroos second match, as well as a quarter-final, semi-final and the final on January 31.

A total of 32 matches will be played over 23 days across the five cities.

Unveiling the schedule at ANZ Stadium, chairman of the AFC Asian Cup Organising Committee said he expected big things from Australia.

"We are sure it will be a great backdrop for world-class football," HRH Prince Abdullah Ibni Sultan Ahmad Shah said.

"Looking at the progress made so far and Australia's rich sporting culture, I expect this AFC Asian Cup to be better than all previous (tournaments)."

Australia, Japan, North Korea and South Korea have qualified for the 2015 Asian Cup, with the remaining spots still to be confirmed.

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