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AFC Asian Cup 2019: All eyes on Australia as stage is set for kick off

Australia

Bengaluru/Abu Dhabi: Four years after having lifted their maiden AFC Asian Cup title at home, Australia have their task cut out as the 17th edition of the continent's premier competition gets underway at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Saturday (January 5).

Hosts the UAE take on Bahrain in the lung opener of Group A on Saturday while Australia begin their title defence on Sunday with Group B encounter against Jordan in Al Ain.

The Socceroos are a different beast to Ange Postecoglou's team that beat South Korea in extra time to lift the trophy on home soil in 2015.

They have a new coach in Graham Arnold and a mostly inexperienced squad, with the majority of the 23 in the United Arab Emirates never having experienced the cut and thrust of Asian Cup football before.

In what will be the largest AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, 24 teams will vie for the title with matches to be played in eight stadiums in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Sharjah.

Full schedule

The Socceroos have been hard at work with head coach Arnold putting his players through their paces. They sounded an early warning to their rivals after securing an emphatic 5-0 victory against Oman in a warm-up tie in Dubai and would be keen to continue from where they left off.

China too have been working hard as Marcello Lippi's players have undergone several training sessions since arriving in the UAE.

Iraq have also arrived as the West Asians look to replicate their title-winning form of 2007. Having finished fourth four years ago, Iraq will definitely be a team to watch out for in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.

India are returning to the competition after an eight-year gap and they will be at least hoping to make it to the knockout round after having fallen in the first hurdle in the 2011 edition held in Qatar.

Qatar, the 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts will be another team in the spotlight. They will look to erase the bitter disappointment of the 2015 edition in Australia, where they lost all the group matches to bow out of the tournament.

South Korea Republic, who have not won the continental title since 1960 ia another team to watch out for. The Taeguk Warriors are consistent performers at the AFC Asian Cup, having taken four runners-up and four third-place finishes and last time they almost came close to winning it before faltering in final to Australia.

It's all systems go for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 with teams having touched down in the four cities that will host the continental showpiece.

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    Story first published: Friday, January 4, 2019, 14:38 [IST]
    Other articles published on Jan 4, 2019
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