Sportsworld’s Rahul Pathak casts his eye over the seven Gulf nations at the Asian Cup.
|Bahrain striker A’ala Hubail was equal top-scorer at
the 2004 Asian Cup in China [EPA]
With the AFC Asian Cup set to kick-off in Bangkok on July 7, Al Jazeera previews the teams in Group D.
Fifa world rank: 100
Coach: Milan Macala
Player to watch: A’ala Hubail
Best Asian Cup finish: 4th place 2004
Bahrain enter only their third AFC Asian Cup after a first round exit at Qatar 1988, and a surprise semi-finals appearance at China 2004.
The island Gulf-nation were just minutes away from reaching the final in 2004, as they led defending champions Japan 3-2 late in their semi-final, only to see their opponents score two late goals to snatch a heartbreaking 4-3 win.
Coach Milan Macala actually led Oman through qualifying for this year’s Asian Cup before moving over the Persian Gulf to take the reigns at Bahrain in April this year.
Bahrain striker A’ala Hubail, who recently signed a contract with Kuwait SC, was joint top-scorer at the last Asian Cup along with Iran talisman Ali Karimi, and will again look to be amongst the goals in a tough group.
Indonesian striker Bambang Pamungkas was
Fifa world rank: 143
Coach: Ivan Kolev
Player to watch: Bambang Pamungkas
Best Asian Cup finish: Round 1 1996, 2000, and 2004
Indonesia are into their fourth consecutive Asian Cup finals, albeit as joint hosts this time around.
Three previous first round exits tell the story of the Merah Putih or ‘red and whites’, as they have managed just one win in nine Asian Cup finals matches.
Bulgarian coach Ivan Kolev lost his role as national coach of Indonesia after the 2004 Asian Cup, but was reinstalled early in 2007 when Englishman Peter Withe was stood down from the role after disappointing results.
Striker Bambang Pamungkas had mixed fortunes in Indonesia’s warm-up matches for the tournament, scoring twice in a 2-1 win over Jamaica, but missing a penalty in a 1-0 loss to Oman.
The 27-year-old is strong in the air, and will need to be against the likes of the Saudi and Korean defenders.
South Korea fans hope Lee Dong-Gook can
Fifa world rank: 51
Coach: Pim Verbeek
Player to watch: Lee Dong-Gook
Best Asian Cup finish: Champions 1956 and 1960.
Korea Republic are perhaps the biggest underachievers on the Asian Cup stage, as they have not won the tournament since back-to-back titles in 1956 and 1960.
Three appearances in the final since then (1972, ’80, and ’88), have yielded little for the side that have played at the past six successive World Cup finals, and finished fourth on home soil in 2002.
Dutch coach Pim Verbeek has had to deal with a major injury crisis when selecting his final squad, as Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung, Tottenham fullback Lee Young-Pyo and Reading star Seol Ki-Hyeon are all out, while Middlesbrough striker Lee Dong-Gook has been included but is also recovering from injury.
Should Lee be fit, he will lead the Korean attack having scored 22 goals in 64 appearances for the Taeguk Warriors.
|Yasser Al Qahtani scored a World Cup goal
against Tunisia in Germany [GALLO/GETTY]
Fifa world rank: 62
Coach: Hélio dos Anjos
Player to watch: Yasser Al Qahtani
Best Asian Cup finish: Champions 1984, 1988, and 1996.
Saudi Arabia come into the Asian Cup after a disappointing result at the 2006 World Cup, and a semi-final exit at the 2007 Gulf Cup of nations in January.
The first five appearances of the ‘Sons of the desert’ at the Asian Cup from 1984 to 2000 resulted in an amazing five consecutive finals appearances, and three championships in 1984, ’88, and ’96.
However the Saudis surprisingly finished bottom of their group in 2004 when they failed to win a match against Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iraq.
Brazilian Hélio dos Anjos was only appointed coach of Saudi Arabia in mid-March 2007 after taking over from compatriot Marcus Paqueta, and has had limited time with his team ahead of another Cup campaign.
Yasser Al Qahtani will spearhead Saudi Arabia’s campaign for a fourth Asian Cup title, with the 24-year-old enjoying pre-tournament success when scoring against Singapore in a 2-1 win.