Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

AFC: Asian Cup 2011 Tournament Preview

Posted in Asian Football by peterbein on January 4, 2011

AFC Asian CupThe Middle Eastern country of Qatar is still on a high following its successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. This month the oil rich country has the opportunity to showcase itself to the world and prove that its victory was justified when it hosts the 15th edition of the AFC Asian Cup, the first time it has held this event since 1988. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the tournament which begins on Friday by looking at all sixteen contenders for the prestigious trophy.

GROUP A (CHINA; KUWAIT; QATAR; UZBEKISTAN)

CHINA: qualified for the finals after finishing runner-up in Group D just one point behind Syria and way ahead of Vietnam and Lebanon. The Chinese will be participating in their tenth AFC Asian Cup and will hope to do better than four years ago when they failed to get past the group stage. Have finished runners-up twice in 1984 and 2004, losing to Saudi Arabia and Japan respectively but don’t expect them to do any better this time. FIFA World Ranking = 87

KUWAIT: qualified for the finals finishing runners-up in Group B where they finished behind Australia and ahead of Oman and Indonesia. The Kuwaitis have reached the finals of this tournament for the ninth time and haven’t come close in recent years to emulating their one and only triumph which came in 1980 when they got the better of South Korea in the final. At least they’ve already done better than four years ago, a tournament which they failed to qualify for. FIFA World Ranking = 102

QATAR: hosting the tournament for a second time, twenty-two years after hosting their first. Qatar have never done better than reach the last eight of the competition which they did in the 2000 tournament hosted by Lebanon. They lost to China on that occasion, a country who they will meet in this year’s group stage and the Qataris will expect nothing less than a quarter-final place this time. Four years ago they went out in the group stage. FIFA World Ranking = 114

UZBEKISTAN: qualified for the tournament in one of the easiest fashions imaginable. Their group was reduced from four teams to three and they won three of their four games to qualify as runners-up behind United Arab Emirates who had a similar record but were pipped first place due to goal difference. Four years ago Uzbekistan reached the quarter-finals but were narrowly beaten by Saudi Arabia. This will be Uzbekistan’s fifth appearance in the Asian Cup. FIFA World Ranking = 109

GROUP B (JAPAN; JORDAN; SAUDI ARABIA; SYRIA)

JAPAN: qualified for the tournament by virtue of winning all but one of their six games in Group A finishing three points ahead of Bahrain. Japan had to be content with fourth place in 2007 following a semi-final defeat to Saudi Arabia and 3rd/4th play-off loss to South Korea on penalties. This will be Japan’s eighth tournament appearance and they will hope to add a record breaking fourth title win to the honours board following wins in 1992, 2000 and 2004. FIFA World Ranking = 29

JORDAN: finished five points behind Iran in tournament qualifying round Group E and will make only their second appearance in the Asian Cup finals six years after they made their first. On that occasion Jordan made it through the group stage and were unlucky to go out at the quarter-final stage to eventual winners Japan when losing in a penalty shoot-out. A repeat of that perfromance might be difficult to do seeing as they face Japan and Saudi Arabia in their group. FIFA World Ranking = 104

SAUDI ARABIA: qualified automatically for this tournament having finished as runners-up in the 2007 tournament. Four years ago the Saudis were beaten by surprise package Iraq in the final and it meant that a record breaking fourth title went slipping from their fingers. Saudi Arabia will feature in their ninth finals and have been successful in this tournament three times including in 1988 when the AFC Asian Cup was played in Qatar. Can history repeat itself? FIFA World Ranking = 81

SYRIA: finished top of Group D by just a solitary point ahead of China and well ahead of Vietnam and Lebanon. Syria’s last appearance in the Asian Cup came in 1996 when they finished third behind China and Japan in the group stage and failed to reach the knockout rounds. Indeed Syria have failed to get past the first round in each of the four tournaments they have participated in. Syria will hope not to finish fourth and their match against Jordan is the only one they have any real chance of winning. FIFA World Ranking = 107

Younis Mahmoud

Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud with the trophy in 2007

GROUP C (AUSTRALIA; BAHRAIN; INDIA; SOUTH KOREA)

AUSTRALIA: featuring in only their second tournament after joining the Asian Football Confederation just five years ago. Finished top of Group B ahead of Kuwait, Oman and Indonesia to qualify for their second finals. Their maiden appearance came four years ago when they reached the quarter-final stage having finished second in their group behind eventual champions Iraq. Sadly for the Aussies they went out on penalties to Japan in the last eight but they hope to do better this time around. FIFA World Ranking = 26

BAHRAIN: were just three points behind Japan in their qualifying group and got through to the finals ahead of Yemen and Hong Kong. Failed to progress from the group stage four years ago where they ended up bottom of their group propping up the likes of Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Indonesia. This will be Bahrain’s fifth tournament finals with their best showing coming in 2004 when they reached the semi-finals losing to Japan in a thrilling game of football. FIFA World Ranking = 93

INDIA: qualified for this tournament as far ago as 2008 when they won that year’s AFC Challenge Cup, a tournament for second-tier Asian football nations. They beat the likes of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Myanmar and Tajikistan (twice) to claim that crown and have been preparing for this tournament ever since. This will be only their third appearance in the Asian Cup finals and a repeat of their second place finish in 1964 is very unlikely indeed. FIFA World Ranking = 142

SOUTH KOREA: qualified for this tournament when winning the 3rd/4th place play-off in the 2007 tournament when defeating Japan on penalties. South Korea have a distinguished history in this tournament having qualified, along with Iran, more times than anyone else and will be making their 12th appearance this time around. South Korea have also got their hands on the trophy on two occasions but those triumphs were in the first two competitions all the way back in 1956 and 1960. FIFA World Ranking = 40

GROUP D (IRAN; IRAQ; NORTH KOREA; UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)

IRAN: got through to this year’s Asian Cup finishing ahead of Jordan, Thailand and Singapore in Group E. Iran, just like South Korea, have chalked up the most tournament appearances so far and will be playing in their 12th finals. They’ve also won the competition on three occasions, a joint-record, which all came consecutively in 1968, 1972 and 1976. Since then the Iranians have achieved four 3rd place finishes and reached the quarter-finals last time out losing to South Korea on penalties. FIFA World Ranking = 66

IRAQ: qualified automatically as the surprise champions in 2007. They battled against Australia, Thailand and Oman in the group stages before getting the better of Vietnam, South Korea and Saudi Arabia in the knockout rounds to win their maiden AFC Asian Cup title. This will be their seventh appearance in the finals and it is unlikely that Iraq will repeat their triumph of four years especially now that the surprise factor has gone. Their game against neighbours Iran is one of the ties of the group stages. FIFA World Ranking = 101

NORTH KOREA: qualified for the Asian Cup finals by winning the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup, Asia’s second-tier football tournament. They finished top of their group containing Turkmenistan, Krygyzstan and India before defeating Myanmar and Turkmenistan (again) to win the competition. Following their 2010 FIFA World Cup appearance the world now knows a bit more about North Korean football and there’s potential for this team to spring the odd surprise this time out in their 2nd appearance. FIFA World Ranking = 108

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: progressed, along with Uzbekistan, from the three-team qualifying Group C. The United Arab Emirates will be making their eighth tournament finals showing and, despite being one of Asian football’s stronger nations, have never won the competition to date. Their best effort was in their home tournament in 1996 when they finished runners-up having lost out to Saudi Arabia in the final following a penalty shoot out. FIFA World Ranking = 105

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