AFC Asian Cup: Week One Winners & Losers
We’re just over a week into the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, but the six groups of four have all played twice. Here we take a look at three winners, and three losers of the tournament so far, with one group game to go. Winners China There’s always a feeling of expectancy when the Chinese team are in town, unfortunately recent history tells us that feeling is usually disappointment. However, the 2004 finalists have already displayed the resilience to comeback and the quality to dominate. In their opening game, China came back from a goal down to defeat Kyrgyzstan 2-1. They hadn’t tasted a competitive win since September 2017 – a run that includes the four team East Asia Championship and the semi-competitive ‘China Cup’, in which they conceded 10 goals in two games against Wales and the Czech Republic. But it seems brighter days could be ahead because they followed their first game win with a dominant showing over the Philippines to run out 3-0 victors setting up a final group match showdown with South Korea (also on 6 points) to decide who finishes top of group C. Jordan Enter, the dark horses of the tournament, Jordan, who in their opening game earnt a surprise win and clean sheet over current Asian Cup champions, Australia. Defender, Anas Bani Yassen put the underdogs ahead early on from there the Jordanians played out a fairly controlled performance to leave no doubt who deserved the three points. They followed that 1-0 victory with a dominant, if sloppy, 2-0 win over Syria. In their third and final group game they face 4th seeds, Palestine where, despite already qualified, they’ll be hoping to keep the 100% run going into the knockout stages. Qatar With the world cup three years away, Qatar have been quietly building the foundations of a very solid national team. After a disappointing showing in the Gulf Cup of Nations (out at the group stage) the Qatari FA moved to ensure The Maroons got the best experience for the Asian Cup, via friendlies. Under the tutelage of Spaniard, Felix Sanchez Bas, the 2022 world cup hosts scored friendly victories over the likes of Ecuador, Switzerland a draw with Iceland. So optimism was relatively high when they sized up against Lebanon in their opening match. They just about delivered a 2-0 win in a game that was easy to forget but followed it up by knocking six past North Korea; three in the 1st half, three in the 2nd, and like China, have setup a final group game fight for top of group E vs. Saudi Arabia. Losers Australia The current holders of the Asian Cup began the defence of their trophy with a 1-0 defeat to Jordan. Whilst all the talk was how the Socceroos would cope without national team legend, Tim Cahill, it was defensive deficiencies that came to the fore. They were a goal down within 30 minutes after Yassen evaded his marker and fired a bullet header past Matt Ryan. A goal that sealed the surprise victory and put Australia under heavy pressure heading into the following match vs. Palestine. This time the Roos took charge, as expected from the start. 2-0 up after 20 minutes and a third in the 90th minute, Australia head into matchday three against Syria with all the expectation on their shoulders to at least secure qualification into the knockout stage. Vietnam Vietnam were always going to be up against it having been drawn in group D with Iran and Iraq, but the underdogs have impressed over the past 18 months having entered the tournament unbeaten in both competitive and friendly matches since a December 2016 defeat to Indonesia. So hopes were high as their tournament got going against Iraq and shot even higher when Ali Faez Atiyah put the ball in his own net to give the South East Asian side ahead. Though Iraq equalised, Vietnam retook the lead just before half time. But victory wasn’t to be as Iraq equalised again on the hour mark and in a cruel blow to the Golden Dragons, they conceded in the final few minutes to end Vietnams impressive unbeaten run. It then felt as if the bubble had burst on Vietnam’s dreams when they came up against Iran. The Dragons were overrun and overawed by Iran’s pace of play and were dominated to a 2-0 defeat, meaning they’ll be headed home early after their third match vs. Yemen. Oman Before their final pre-tournament friendlies Gulf Cup of Nations holders, Oman were riding the wave of victory having not loss a match since the opening game of the Nations trophy to the UAE back in 2017, but reality seemingly hit them hard when Australia put five unanswered goals passed them before Thailand also ‘nilled’ The Reds in a 2-0 victory. So it was a less than ideal situation for Oman, relative dark horses, entering the 2019 tournament especially as they’d been drawn in a group with Japan, Uzbekistan and the team they’re yet to play, Turkmenistan. They opened their Asian Cup against the Uzbeks and although they went in at half time 1-0 down, they were undeniably in with a chance to turn it around; proven to be true when Muhsen Al Ghassani equalised with just less than 20 minutes to go. But the full turn around wasn’t to be completed, instead Rostov’s, Eldor Shomurodov sealed the 3 points for Uzbekistan. More woe followed for Oman against Japan where the only goal of the match came from a Genki Haraguchi penalty to send Oman crashing out with one dead-rubber game to go against fellow no-pointers, Turkmenistan.
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