2015 Asian Cup Preview
Australia host the 2015 Asian Cup this January and the Socceroos are unsurprisingly amongst the favourites for the title.
The Aussies are well fancied alongside fellow 2014 World Cup rivals Japan, Iran and South Korea.
And before you take advantage of Coral’s £20 free bet, read our preview and decide who you are going to stick your money on.
Australia and South Korea will meet in Group A of the competition, alongside minnows Oman and Kuwait. While Japan face Jordan, Iraq and Palestine in Group D and Iran take on United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain in Group C.
Group B, meanwhile, sees Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabi, China and North Korea meet for a spot in the quarter-finals, and a likely match-up against Australia or South Korea.
Japan will head into the competition as reigning champions after defeating Australia 1-0 (after extra-time) in the 2011 final. The Samurai Blues’ defeated South Korea 3-0 on penalties in the semi-final after the match finished 2-2 after 120 minutes.
The four-time Asian Cup winners were disappointing at the World Cup in Brazil, however, losing two and drawing one of their three matches. Alberto Zaccheroni’s men would have fancied their chances against Greece, Colombia and the Ivory Coast but lost 2-1 to the African’s and 4-1 to the South American’s.
Former Mexico, Espanyol and Atletico Madrid manager Javier Aguirre replaced the Italian as head coach after the tournament and the Asian Cup will be his first competition in charge of the Asian side.
Australia, meanwhile, were placed into the ‘group of death’ at this year’s World Cup, facing Spain, Holland and Chile. The Australian’s lost all three matches but received praise from the press and supporters for their spirited performances. Ange Postecoglou replaced Holger Osieck last October after the Socceroos had lost 6-0 to France and Brazil in successive international friendlies.
The 49-year-old Greek coach will be expected to deliver great success on home soil, particularly after the promising performances at the World Cup. The Aussies have only competed in the competition since 2007, and will be desperate to improve on their runner-up from position last time around.
They will have to get past South Korea first, however, after the 2002 World Cup semi-finalists were paired with the host nation in Group A this January. The two-time winners have not lifted the title since 1960 but have finished third in three out of the last four tournaments.
The Reds, who have appeared at the last eight World Cup’s going all the way back to 1986, famously finished 4th at the 2002 World Cup that they hosted with Japan. Like Japan and Australia, however, the Korean’s could only reach the group stage of the 2014 competition in Brazil, picking up just one point from three matches.
Hong Myung-Bo, who captained the nation to the semi-finals in 2002, took his side to Brazil this summer but they were hugely disappointing, drawing 1-1 with Russia before losing 4-2 to Algeria and 1-0 to Belgium. The team received a hostile reception upon their return to Korea, with supporters throwing toffees at the players.
Hong resigned as the pressure on him increased and after former Dutch coach Bert Van Marwijk, who guided Holland to the 2010 World Cup final, was unable to agree terms Uli Stielike took over.
The former Switzerland and Ivory Coast coach has been coaching in the middle-east in recent years and will hope to guide his side to success in January.
Iran are viewed by many as the fourth and final contender for the title this winter. The Persian Stars were beaten 1-0 by South Korea in the quarter-finals of the competition in 2011 and have won the competition three times, the last in 1976.
With former Real Madrid and Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz in charge, the Iranian’s performed admirably in South America, holding Nigeria to a goalless draw before falling to a late 1-0 defeat to eventual finalists Argentina before Bosnia and Herzegovina sent them home with a 3-1 win.
Queiroz has called upon a host of Iranian’s who have been born abroad during his tenure as manager, including former Fulham midfielder Ashkan Dejagah and Charlton striker Reza Ghoochannejhad.
With a straight forward looking group, The Princes of Persia should ease into the last-eight of the competition and you have to fancy the Iranian’s to reach at the semi-finals, especially with the side likely to face Jordan, Iraq or Palestine from Group D if they top their group as expected.