Former Socceroo Alex Tobin talks to Steve Kaless about Australia’s Asian Cup foray.
|Australia’s Marco Bresciano, left, is a goal scoring
threat from midfield [GALLO/GETTY]
With the AFC Asian Cup set to kick-off in Bangkok on July 7, Al Jazeera previews the teams in Group A.
Fifa world rank: 48
Coach: Graham Arnold
Player to watch: Marco Bresciano
Best Asian Cup finish: This is Australia’s first Asian Cup appearance
Australia enter their first Asian Cup as tournament favourites, and with the likes of Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Tim Cahill, Lucas Neill and Marco Bresciano in their squad, it comes as no surprise.
Coach Graham Arnold has said that anything less than a top-two finish will be a failure, so the pressure is on the 43-year-old in the wake of Guus Hiddink’s impressive World Cup campaign in Germany last year.
A new-look defence could be Australia’s only weak point as stalwarts Tony Popovic and Craig Moore are replaced by fresh faces Patrick Kisnorbo and Michael Thwaite.
Midfielder Marco Bresciano netted the crucial goal for the Socceroos in their World Cup qualifier against Uruguay in Novmeber 2005, and will be lurking around the top of the box in search of scoring opportunities at the Asian Cup.
Iraq’s Mohammed Hawar Mulla has been in
Fifa world rank: 84
Coach: Jorvan Vieira
Player to watch: Hawar Mulla Mohammed
Best Asian Cup finish: 4th place 1976
Iraq have warmed up for the Asian Cup with an impressive run in the West Asian Football Federation Championship where they lost 2-1 to Iran in the final in Jordan.
Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira only took over at Iraq in late May after Akram Salman was sacked due to Iraq’s first round exit from the Gulf Cup of Nations in the UAE January.
Even in the short time he has been given to prepare, Vieira looks to have his side primed to spring some surprises at the Asian Cup and they can not be underestimated.
Hawar Mulla Mohammed, Iraq’s 24-year-old midfielder has been in goal scoring form for the national team, dubbed Assood Al Rafidain or ‘Lions of the Two Rivers’, and will be the creative impetus in midfield for his side.
Ali Al Habsi should be solid between the sticks
Fifa world rank: 74
Coach: Gabriel Calderón
Player to watch: Ali Al Habsi
Best Asian Cup finish: Round 1 2004
Runners-up at this year’s Gulf Cup of Nations in the UAE and also in the previous edition in Qatar 2004, Oman look to be a team on the brink of something big.
Czech coach Milan Macala was the one who guided Oman into their Asian Cup finals place, but he is now at the helm of Gulf rivals Bahrain, with former Argentina international Gabriel Calderón taking over for Oman.
Calderón oversaw Saudi Arabia’s Germany 2006 World Cup campaign, and has had just two months to plot Oman’s assault on the Asain Cup.
Goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi, voted Arab Goalkeeper of the Year and Norwegian Goalkeeper of the Year in 2004 after a stint with Lyn Oslo, currently plys his trade with English Premier League club Bolton Wanderers and will be a force at the back of his defence.
Thailand striker Teeratep Winothai will be
Fifa world rank: 122
Coach: Chanvit Pholchivin
Player to watch: Teeratep Winothai
Best Asian Cup finish: 3rd place 1972
Thailand are the highest Fifa ranked team out of the four joint-hosts, but at 122nd in the world they could do it tough even with the expected parochial home support at Rajamangala National Stadium in Bangkok.
Coach Chanvit Pholchivin actually quit his post in favour of a job offer from Vietnamese club Dong Thap in February, but then had a change of heart and returned to the national side which he took to glory in the 2005 South East Asian Games.
Striker Teeratep Winothai, currently with BEC-Tero Sasana FC in the Thai national league, looks like the player who could spark his side on their home turf, but he may do it tough against the sizeable defenders in Group A.