Australia and South Korea meet in Group A of the Asian Cup, with the pair both expected to challenge for the title this January.
The duo were both at the World Cup this summer and were both eliminated in the group stage of the competition but will be expecting better performances this winter. Oman and Kuwait complete Group A but it is the clash between the Socceroos and Korea that should prove to be the the clash of the round. You can claim a £50 free bet on William Hill when placing your first bet with them to back the side which you think will come out on top.
Former Rangers and Lyon coach Paul Le Guen is in charge of Oman, however, and they the Red Warriors topped their qualification group with four wins and two draws from their six matches.
And Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Ali-Al Habsi is the current Oman captain and is approaching a century of appearances for his country. The 32-year-old is the one of only two players who play their football outside of the country, the other being striker Amad Al-Hosni who plays for Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia. The Omani’s last reached the finals of the Asian Cup in 2004, going out in the group stage with Iran and Japan advancing.
Kuwait complete the group after finishing second in their qualification group behind Iran and ahead of Lebanon and Thailand. The Blue’s were outside the top-100 in August’s Fifa rankings (111th). Jorvan Vieira’s men do have a good history in the competition, however, winning the title in 1980 during a golden era for the country which brought a runner-up finish in 1976 and third placed finish in 184.
The Kuwaitis also reached their only World Cup during that time, appearing at the 1982 World Cup in Spain but going out in the group stage. The nation has struggled in recent years, however, losing all three matches in Qatar in 2011 and failing to qualify for the finals in 2007.
All eyes will be on the big two in Group A, however, with the two sides meeting in the third and final round of fixtures in Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium and both sides will fancy their chances in the competition. Despite reach the World Cup this summer, Australia headed into September ranked 8th in the Asian Football Confederation, behind Oman, United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
Ange Postecoglou’s men produced a valiant performance in the ‘group of death’ at the World Cup but lost all three matches to Spain, Holland and Chile, conceding nine goals and scoring three. The ‘golden generation’ are long gone, although Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano are still in contention to feature this winter.
This is an Australian team in transition with their September friendly against Saudi Arabia at Fulham’s Craven Cottage seeing the 49-year-old coach select a highly-inexperienced side. West Bromwich Albion defender Jason Davidson was the most capped defender in the squad with 12 caps while goalkeeper’s Matthew Ryan and Mitchell Langerak have just 15 caps between them.
Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak, Carl Valeri, Mark Milligan and Bresciano are all seasoned internationals in midfielder, however, while 34-year-old New York Red Bulls striker Cahill is expected to lead the line up-front and Middlesbrough defender Rhys Williams and Fulham striker Adam Taggart will both hope to be fit for the competition.
South Korea, meanwhile, will hope they can improve on their recent record of three third place finishes from the last four tournaments. The Reds struggled at the World Cup, drawing with Russia before losing 4-2 to Algeria and 1-0 to Belgium.
German coach Uli Stielike took over after the disappointment of Brazil and promised supporters he would do his best in the job. The Koreans started life under the former Switzerland and Ivory Coast boss with a 3-1 win over South American side Venezuela before losing 1-0 to Uruguay.
Cardiff City’s Kim Bo-Hyung, Swansea City’s Ki Sung-yueng and Bolton Wanderer’s Lee Chung-yong should all feature for the Asian giants although Park Chu Young has failed to find a new following his release from Arsenal. The 29-year-old has scored 24 goals in 66 appearances for Korea but will not be in contention unless he can find a club and get his fitness up.
The young Australian’s should top the group and with the winner set to face the runner-up Group B reaching the semi-finals of the competition should be the minimum achievement for Aussies.
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