Australia provides the perfect kick-start to the AFC Asian Cup

In the end, fear turned into relief, then enjoyment, then delight and perhaps excitement about what lies ahead in the next three weeks in the 2015 Asian Cup.

If Australia end up lifting the trophy on Jan. 31 in Sydney, the 4-1 win over Kuwait in Melbourne in the opening game will be seen as a crucial first step.

While there will be column inches spent talking about the performance, the Socceroos have a wider duty this January. They have to try and make this tournament stand out in the minds of a sports-mad nation to place it firmly in the mainstream for all to see and enjoy.

In some of the morning's newspapers in the country, there was plenty of coverage of the competition but you still had to wade through reports of cricket to get there. More of this, victory and excitement, and the backpages will surely give way to the football. Friday was a great start.

This was the perfect result for Australia and a good one for the tournament as a whole. It was a win but not a walkover. Kuwait, inevitably in second billing in the opening game against the host, played their part and injected drama and uncertainty into the equation.

Instead the visitor contributed to what became a good game, one much better than the turgid and tense fare often served up when the curtain rises for the very first time. Although it will probably be no consolation to Kuwait that every tournament needs a good showing from the host.

Going into this game, Australian coach Ange Postecoglou's men had won just one of the last 10. Since qualifying for the 2014 World Cup 18 months ago, there had been only three victories and these came against Canada, a Costa Rica team that looked nothing like the one that would almost reach the semifinal of the Brazil tournament and Saudi Arabia.

Defeat was becoming a habit for the Socceroos but that was OK, kind of, because the team was being prepared for this, the Asian Cup. But there was no more future. It was here and now. To lose at home, and in the first game was almost unthinkable.

Falling behind to Hussain Fadel's low eighth minute header was a huge blow. The only positive was that it came with eight minutes gone and not left. Kuwait showed that home advantage can be a double-edged scimitar. Combine poor form with the need to succeed, it was not surprising that Australia were rocking.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, even if it is fairly useless in a football tournament when one defeat can mean an early flight home. Still, had Kuwaiti coach Nabil Maaloul's men been a little more ambitious after drawing first blood, it could have been very different. Kuwait seemed willing to wound but not to strike.

Even then, if Cahill hadn't equalised just after the half-hour, the second-half could have been a tortuous affair for Australia. But nerves were settled, and Loungo headed home just minutes later.

Instead of going in at half-time 2-1 to the good and looking forward to the restart, it would all have been very different.

The second half contained some quality moments. Kuwait pushed forward looking to get back into the game and the Socceroos kept the ball well, always trying to extend the lead. It was likely, however, that the decisive fourth goal of the evening would go the way of green and gold. And so it proved, with Australia's fourth goal serving to make the rain matter that much less.

It is to be hoped that it was not just the fans in Melbourne who went home excited. Australia has started the Asian Cup well, to excite the fans about the team and hopefully about the tournament too. Unlike the 2014 World Cup opener, there was no controversy, no refereeing blunders or goals wrongly disallowed.

It was all about the football. For Australia, nothing has been won yet but the fear of failure and any self-doubts have been lost amid the Victorian rain. For the Asian Cup, the next three weeks look very interesting indeed. The kick-start has been delivered.