The competition, however, arguably represented just as great a victory for the gallant Iraqis, who swept past many of the continent's big boys en route to the final. Iran, though disappointed at missing out on their third consecutive Asian Games title, could also leave with heads held high after edging out Korea Republic 1-0 to pick up the bronze.
 
While all competed fiercely for the coveted gold, the 24 participants also utilised the tournament as an opportunity to assess many of their young players eligible for the Olympics Games - now less than 600 days away.
 
Troussier's legacy
The tiny Emirate of Qatar, where the expatriate workforce outnumber the indigenous population, represented worthy and remarkable winners of the Games' football tournament.

Worth noting was that five of the winning team, including the impressive 20-year-old Bilal Mohammed, featured in the team that represented Qatar in the 2004 AFC Asian Cup under Philippe Troussier. The French coach, whose role in harnessing Japan's 'golden generation' had already earned him renown for his ability to spot burgeoning talents, made a point of injecting some fresh, young blood into the Qatari team when he took over following the 2002 FIFA World Cup™.

Although this was followed by short-term pain, as an inexperienced Qatar team failed to progress beyond group stage in China, the long-term gain can be seen in the invaluable international experience gained by players who have since developed into backbone of the national team.
 
Bilal Mahammed, who showed a glimpse of his defensive talents in two of Qatar three matches in that Asian Cup campaign, proved to be the prime example, bossing the team's defence and scoring the gold-winning goal in their 1-0 victory over Iraq.
 
The new revelation, meanwhile, was teenage striker Sebastian Quintana, who topped the team's scoring chart with four goals. The 18-year-old opened his account in Qatar's opening 3-0 victory against Jordan and despite failing to find the net in their 1-0 defeat against Uzbekistan, he was back on target in the last group match against United Arab Emirates with a brace as Qatar won 4-1. Then, in the crucial semi-final clash against much-fancied Iran, Quintana opened the scoring in front of an adoring Qatari public unable to contain their glee as their team won 2-0 to book their place in the final. 
 
Senior talismen
While the games witnessed the emergence of a host of young talents, they also saw a clutch of veterans proved highly influential in their teams' campaigns.
 
Younis Mahmoud, for example, the Iraqi forward who scored a memorable goal in the 4-2 win against Portugal at Athens two years ago, was one of three overage players that formed the team's experienced core and proved a potent weapon in Iraq's run to the final.
 
Arash Borhani, meanwhile, was undoubtedly the driving force behind Iran. The 25-year-old scored his and his team's first goal in the 3-1 against Maldives and a second came when he scored the winner against a resilient Hong Kong. The Al Nasr striker continued his prolific form against India by sealing a 2-0 victory for Iran and in the quarter-final meeting with China, he was the man to break India's early resistance.
 
Dujkovic spies improvement 
China may have disappointed by failing to reach the last four, a target they have set for themselves for the Beijing-held Olympic Games.  

However, it was far from a disastrous start for newly-appointed coach Ratomir Dujkovic given that they won all three group games, including the 1-0 opening win against Iraq and a hard-fought 2-1 triumph over the ever-improving Oman.
 
"I was satisfied with the team's performance at the Asian Games as they showed some improvements," said Dujkovic, the man who led Ghana to the second round of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. "But we need to work harder."