By Colm Boohig
The 2015 AFC Asian Cup begins this evening as hosts Australia face Kuwait in Melbourne’s Rectangular Stadium. It is the first time that Australia has hosted the Asian Cup, and the first time that the tournament has been staged outside of the geographical continent of Asia. Australia has been part of the Asian Confederation since their 2007 switch from Oceania and the Socceroos will be looking for redemption at this year’s Asian Cup, having lost 1-0 to Japan in the 2011 final. After performing impressively at the World Cup in Brazil, the Socceroos have since endured disappointing results in friendly matches. However, coach Ange Postecoglu insists that his squad have spent the last 12 months gearing up for this moment.
“I believe we have already progressed although the results probably don’t show that. We have a lot more depth in areas [than the team did before the World Cup].
“I think the players themselves will realise that everything we have done the last 12 months has been preparing them for this.
“Now it’s up to them to see how …. having had a taste of international football [in the World Cup] they can put in place everything they have learned in a tournament situation. Competitive games are a whole different kettle of fish to friendly games,” the coach said.
While Socceroo expectation is high, the standout participants at this Asian Cup are undoubtedly Palestine, as they qualified for their first major tournament since achieving admission to FIFA in 1998. Palestine got through when they surprised the footballing world by winning the AFC Champions Cup in May 2014. It is an all the more remarkable achievement considering the war-torn state of the nation. In fact, just two months after last year’s Champions Cup victory, 2,100 Palestinians died following a 50-day war. Many of the fatalities over that period were sportspeople. The Palestine squad is made up of a mixture of communities from the West Bank, Gaza, Israel and beyond. They begin their campaign against holders Japan on Monday. Whatever the result, the nation of Palestine has achieved a massive victory to get to this stage.
The 16th edition of the AFC Asian Cup kicks off in Melbourne on January 9th, with the final being held in Sydney on January 31st.
See below for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup schedule…
Group A: Australia, South Korea, Oman, Kuwait
GROUP A FIXTURES
January 9 Australia vs Kuwait (Melbourne) January 10 South Korea vs Oman (Canberra) January 13 Kuwait vs South Korea (Canberra); Oman vs Australia (Sydney) January 17 Australia vs South Korea (Brisbane); Oman vs Kuwait (Newcastle)
Group B: Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea
GROUP B FIXTURES
January 10 Uzbekistan vs North Korea (Sydney); Saudi Arabia vs China (Brisbane) January 14 North Korea vs Saudi Arabia (Melbourne); China vs Uzbekistan (Brisbane) January 18 Uzbekistan vs Saudi Arabia (Melbourne); China vs North Korea (Canberra)
Group C: Iran, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain
GROUP C FIXTURES
January 11 United Arab Emirates vs Qatar (Canberra); Iran vs Bahrain (Melbourne) January 15 Bahrain vs United Arab Emirates (Canberra); Qatar vs Iran (Sydney) January 19 Iran vs United Arab Emirates (Brisbane); Qatar vs Bahrain (Sydney)
Group D: Japan, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine
GROUP D FIXTURES
January 12 Japan vs Palestine (Newcastle); Jordan vs Iraq (Brisbane) January 16 Palestine vs Jordan (Melbourne); Iraq vs Japan (Brisbane) January 20 Japan vs Jordan (Melbourne); Iraq vs Palestine (Canberra)
January 22 Winner Group A vs Runner-up Group B (match 25, Melbourne); Winner Group B vs Runner-up Group A (match 26, Brisbane) January 23 Winner Group C vs Runner-up Group D (match 27, Canberra); Winner Group D vs Runner-up Group C (match 28, Sydney)
January 26 Winner match 25 vs winner match 27 (Sydney) January 27 Winner match 26 vs winner match 28 (Newcastle)
January 30 Newcastle
January 31 Sydney
Image courtesy of Wikipedia