The AFC Asian Cup 2019 is around the corner as the top 24 teams take to the field in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a bid to conquer Asia with three debutants in Kyrgyzstan, Philippines and Yemen.
Asian giants like Japan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia and South Korea will surely go into the tournament as the favourites but they could be pushed to their limits by emerging sides like Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Qatar and China.
Group C will feature Philipines as one of the probable dark-horses alongside war-torn Yemen who would be looking to redeem themselves at the International Arena as they fight for a hopeful qualification from the group by battling the likes of South Korea and China.
Here we look at Group C in brief:
Paulo Bento would look to better his predecessor Uli Stielike's campaign in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia where the 'Taeguk Warriors' succumbed to an extra-time 2-1 defeat to Australia in the Final.
The Koreans have won the elusive tournament twice in the early days of Asian Football in 1956 and 1960 when the event was a quadrangular contest. Since then, the East Asian Nation have only managed to finish as the Runners Up on four occasions including in 2015.
The Koreans generally play with a 4-4-2 formation as they did in Russia during the 2018 World Cup, ousting Germany in the final group game.
South Korea made it to UAE with ease as expected as they finished at top of their group in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Round 2 ahead of Lebanon, Kuwait, Myanmar and Laos.
Key Players: Ki Sung-yueng, Son Heung-min, Ji Dong-won
Group Fixtures: Philippines (Jan 7), Kyrgyzstan (Jan 11), China (Jan 16)
World-Cup winning Italian Manager Marcello Lippi's tenure may have been coming to end with the Chinese National Football Team, but the septuagenarian would be looking to end his probable last managerial job on a high when he leads the Dragons into the AFC Asian Cup.
The coveted Asian Cup still eludes the Chinese after their runner-up finishes in 1984 and 2004.
China were ousted in the Quarter-finals in the 2015 edition after succumbing to a 0-2 defeat to eventual champions and hosts Australia in Brisbane. The onus will be on Lippi and his men to finally accomplish the one thing what Chinese Football is lacking after all the heavy-purchases from Europe by the Chinese Super League sides.
China qualified for their 12th Asian Cup campaign after they finished second in their group in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Round 2 behind Qatar.
Lippi prefers a conventional 4-1-2-3 formation which didn't have much of an impact in the previous few games as they lost to sides like Qatar and Iraq as part of their preparation for Asian Cup.
It would be interesting to see how Lippi adjusts the team to a different tactical lineup or he sticks to the usual formation.
Key Players: Wu Lei (Shanghai SIPG), Zheng Zhi (Guangzhou Evergrande), Gao Lin (Guangzhou Evergrande)
Group Fixtures: Kyrzgystan (Jan 7), Philippines (Jan 11), South Korea (Jan 16)
The basketball-crazy nation would be looking to make long strides in the arena of football as they make their debut in the AFC Asian Cup in UAE next month.
The appointment of Sven-Goran Eriksson made headlines around the footballing-world on 27 October 2018. The former Manchester City, AS Roma and England Manager, will be in the spotlight in UAE as he will be looking to guide the 'Azkals' past the AFC Asian Cup Group-Stage to carry on the momentum of the rise of football in the South East Asian Nation.
The turning point came in 2010 when they reached the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time ever. Since then the mood of the country has shifted to football by manifold as they have made it to the knock-out stage of the tournament three times in the last four editions.
The Azkals made it to the Emirates as they finished top of their group in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Round 3 qualifiers after they failed to do the same in the previous round.
Key Players: Stephan Schrock (Ceres Negros FC), John Patrick Strauss (Erzgebirge), Phil Younghusband (Davao Aguilas FC)
Group Fixtures: South Korea (Jan 7), China (Jan 11), Kyrgyzstan (Jan 16)
After emerging as one of the many sovereign post-soviet states after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990, Kyrgyzstan took a lot of time to get a foothold in the field of sport including Football. They played their first ever International Football game as an independent nation in 1994.
After several managerial changes at the helm of football administration, the introduction of Russia Manager Aleksandr Krestinin with the control of the National Team and naturalization of several players from Ghana, Germany and other footballing powerhouses to boost the sport in the country has changed the outlook of football in the Central Asian Nation leading to their upcoming debut in the AFC Asian Cup in UAE next month.
The White Falcons qualified for the coveted event after they finished second behind India in the Qualifiers Round 3.
Krestinin would be looking to somehow sneak into the Round of 16 and make the country earn a name for themselves in the World's most popular sport.
Key Players: Duishobekov Baktyiar (Bashundhara Kings), Lux Vitalij (SSV Ulm 1846), Abdurakhmanov Odilzhon (Alay)
Group Fixtures: China (Jan 7), South Korea (Jan 11), Philippines (Jan 16)
South Korea and China should make it to the Round of 16 should no unpredicted upset spoils the party for the East Asian Nations by the debutants Philippines and Kyrgyzstan.
The Azkals and the White Falcons will be upbeat for a grand debut in Asia and it will be interesting to see if the debutants can somehow sneak in the Round of 16 as one of the best third-placed teams.Published 30 Dec 2018, 20:39 IST