Group C of the 2015 Asian Cup sees former champions Iran enter the competition along with the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain in Australia in January.
The Iranians are viewed as one of the four main contenders for the title this January but they must first navigate their way through a tricky group. You can bet on the the outcome of Group C with Coral, new customers bet £5 and you’ll receive a £20 free bet.
U.A.E will be making their 9th appearance at the finals, having reached the final in 1996 while Qatar reached the last-eight in their own country in 2011. Bahrain, meanwhile, were runners-up in 2004 and reached the group stage in 2007 and 2011.
Carlos Queiroz’s men should be confident, however, after a spirited performance at the World Cup in Brazil this summer. The Iranian’s held Nigeria to a goalless draw before a moment of magic from Lionel Messi handed Argentina a late 1-0 win. Bosnia and Herzegovina then ran out 3-1 winners over the Princes of Persia, sending the asian’s home.
Iran qualified for the Asian Cup as winners of Group B in qualifying, winning five and drawing one of their six matches against Kuwait, Lebanon and Thailand. Team Melli have a great history in the competition, winning the tournament three times in a row between 1968 and 1976. They have also reached the semi-finals a further five times and the quarter-finals three times (including 2007 and 2011).
The Iranian Lions topped their group four-years ago in Qatar, defeating Iraq, North Korea and 2015 Group C rivals United Arab Emirates. South Korea prevailed in the last-eight encounter, however, defeating the Iranian’s 1-0 (a.e.t). Familiar names may include Charlton striker Reza Ghoochannejhad and former Fulham star Ashkan Dejagah. The pair, both now playing back in the middle-east, have established themselves as key men under Queiroz, with Reza netting 11 goals in his first 17 appearances.
Queiroz also managed the United Arab Emirates during the 90’s and his former side will head into the competition looking to advance beyond the group for the first time since the 1996 Asian Cup which they hosted and finished as runners-up behind Saudi Arabia. The White’s have won just one of their nine Asian Cup finals matches since then and failed to score in their three matches in Qatar in 2011. Other notable ex-managers, meanwhile, include England boss Roy Hodgson and Dutch coach Dick Advocaat.
Since taking over in 2012 Mahdi Ali has lifted the country from 138th in the Fifa rankings and into the top-70 now. The 49-year-old stepped up from his role as manager of the Under-23 side guided U.A.E to the 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations and secured their place in the Asian Cup with an impressive performance in qualifying, topping their group ahead of Uzbekistan with five wins from six games including a 2-1 win over the Uzbeks.
Bahrain and Qatar, meanwhile, meet again after going head-to-head in qualifying. The duo met in Group D with the Bahrainis defeating the 2022 World Cup hosts 1-0. The Red’s are competing in the competition for the fourth time in a row and will be looking to escape from the group stage for the first time since 2004. The nation finished fourth that year but have been knocked out in the group stage at the last two tournaments. Adnan Hamad’s men conceded just one goal in six matches during qualifying but scored just seven goals.
Djamel Belmadi’s Qatar have never reached further than the last-eight of the competition. The Maroon’s hosted the last tournament, finishing second behind Uzbekistan before losing 3-2 to Japan in the last-eight. The goal-shy Qataris are tough to break down but struggle in front of goal, failing to score against Macedonia, Morocco and Peru during 2014 international friendlies.
The Qatari’s do not have a team of household names and captain, and striker, Meshal Abdullah has netted just three goals in 25 internationals. Getting out of the group will be a challenge for the future World Cup hosts, with U.A.E and Bahrain likely to be fighting for the second-spot behind Iran.