Group B preview

Japan, Qatar, UAE and Vietnam have been drawn in Group B, based in Hanoi.

    Shunsuke Nakamura could be the key to a third
    successive Asian Cup for Japan [GALLO/GETTY]

    With the AFC Asian Cup set to kick-off in Bangkok on July 7, Al Jazeera previews the teams in Group B.
     
    Japan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam have been drawn in Group B, based in Hanoi.

    Japan

    Fifa world rank: 40

    Coach: Ivica Osim

    Player to watch: Shunsuke Nakamura

    Best Asian Cup finish: Champions 1992, 2000, and 2004.

    Three-time Asian Cup champions Japan are going for their third successive title, however their preparation has been hampered by the domestic J-League schedule and injuries to key defenders Marcus Tulio Tanaka and Hiroki Mizumoto.

    Coach Ivica Osim, who led Yugoslavia to the European Championships in 1992 and has coaching experience with J-League club JEF United Chiba and Sturm Graz in Austria, has been critical of his own side's preparation and is loathe to take the 'favourites' tag into the tournament.

    However the Nihon Daihyo or 'Japanese representatives' will still be the team everyone wants to beat after winning the past two Asian Cups.

    Japan playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura will again be the team's main attacking outlet, and opponents would do well not to give away any free-kicks in goal scoring range against the 29-year-old dead-ball specialist.

    Qatar

    Qatar's Hussain Yasser Abdulrahman, left, is
    small in stature, but high in class [EPA]

    Fifa world rank: 85

    Coach: Dzemaludin Musovic

    Player to watch: Hussain Yasser Abdulrahman

    Best Asian Cup finish: Quarter-finals 2000

    Qatar, 2004 Gulf Cup of Nations champions and more recently 2006 Asian Games champions, will be hoping to put January's disappointing Gulf Cup campaign behind them with a strong showing at the Asian Cup.

    Dzemaludin Musovic's side were knocked out in the group stage of the Gulf Cup tournament in the UAE after not winning a match against Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

    With star player Khalfan Ibrahim out injured, Qatar will be looking to diminutive forward Hussain Yasser Abdul Rahiman to create their chances, with the former Manchester City player returning from injury himself.

    Abdulrahman is likely to play in behind solid striker Seyd Ali Bashir to form a dangerous combination of skill and strength, with support from attacking midfielder Waleed Jassim.

    UAE

    Ismail Matar, left, was leading goal scorer at
    January's Gulf Cup of Nations [GALLO/GETTY]

     

    Fifa world rank: 94

    Coach: Bruno Metsu

    Player to watch: Ismail Matar

    Best Asian Cup finish: Runners-up 1996

    The United Arab Emirates are still riding high from their Gulf Cup of Nations triumph on home soil in January, and will take that momentum into the Asian Cup.

    French coach Bruno Metsu has had over a year in charge of the UAE, which is a great deal more than many of his fellow Gulf nation coaches, and will be looking to add another trophy to the cabinet in Abu Dhabi.

    Star striker Ismail Matar was the top scorer in the Gulf Cup, netting five goals in five matches including the winner in the final against Oman, and was named player of the tournament.

    Matar will be one to watch for Al Sukoor, or 'the Eagles', as they look to go one better than their runners-up finish in 1996 when losing on penalties to Saudi Arabia after a 0-0 extra time scoreline.

    Vietnam

    Vietnam's Le Cong Vinh, second from left, 
    [GALLO/GETTY]

    Fifa world rank: 142

    Coach: Alfred Riedl

    Player to watch: Le Cong Vinh

    Best Asian Cup finish: 4th place 1956 and 1960 (as the Republic of Vietnam)

    The joint-hosts will be relying on their football-crazy fans to get them over the line at My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, as they are likely to struggle against the likes of Japan, Qatar and the UAE.

    The Vietnam under-23 team has been embroiled in corruption and match fixing among players and officials, which has destablised coach Alfred Riedl's preparation with the national team.

    Vietnam have warmed up impressively however, with pre-tournament 3-0 win over Jamaica.

    Key striker Le Cong Vinh, who plays for V-League side Song Lam Nghe An Vinh, got his eye in for the Asian Cup by scoring the opening goal in the win against Jamaica, but things will be much more difficult in what is a tough first round draw for Vietnam.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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