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GROUP E FTBL ASIAN CUP PREVIEW BY TOM DUVALL

FIXTURES

Saudi Arabia v North Korea

3 am January 9

Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai

Qatar v Lebanon

3am January 10

Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain

Lebanon v Saudi Arabia

3am January 13

Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai

North Korea v Qatar

10pm January 13

Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium, Al Ain

Saudi Arabia v Qatar

3am January 18

Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Lebanon v North Korea

3am January 18

Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah

saudi arabia

afc ranking: 5

fifa ranking: 69

2019 will be Saudi Arabia’s 10th appearance in the Asian Cup, having won it three times in ’84, ’88 and ’96. With a solid side and a year of experience holding their own against high calibre competition in the 2018 World Cup (despite a blowout loss to Russia) and another year of learning from coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, Saudi Arabia look to be a contender to take home the 2019 Asian Cup Trophy.

coach

Juan Antonio Pizzi. Respected European manager that has coached teams including Chile and Valencia, taking home a Copa America in 2016 and a La Liga Manager of the Month in 2014. In 2017 he was appointed manager of the Saudi Arabia National Team before their short run at the 2018 World Cup.

LAST SIX GAMES

D-D-W-D-L-D

star player

Fahad Al-Muwallad: He's pacy, quick and fiery tempered. As one of the fastest players at this Asian Cup, the 24-year-old Al Ittihad striker will be key to Pizzi's tactical approach.

STRENGTHS

Skill and composure when counter-attacking and the ability to dictate tempo.

weaknesses

Inconsistent defence.

random quote

(On the tough loss to Russia) “The problem is not the coach. He should not be changed, that has happened before but results did not improve, the mentality has to change.”

verdict

Saudi Arabia will certainly be a team to watch in the 2019 Asian Cup and have a solid chance of making a run at the Cup.

saudi arabia squad

1 WALEED ALI Goal Keeper

2 MOHAMMED ALBURAYK Defender

3 ABDULELAH ALAMRI Defender

4 ALI HADI ALBULAYHI Defender

5 OMAR OTHMAN Defender

6 AYMAN ALKHULAIF Midfielder

7 NOUH IBRAHIM ALMOUSA Midfielder

8 YAHIA ALSHEHRI Midfielder

9 MOHAMMED ALSAIARI Forward

10 SALEM ALDAWSARI Midfielder

11 HATAN BAHBRI Midfielder

12 HAMDAN ALSHAMRANI Defender

13 YASEER ALSHAHRANI Defender

14 ABDULLAH OTAYF Midfielder

15 IBRAHIM GHALEB Midfielder

16 HUSSAIN ALMOQAHWI Midfielder

17 SULTAN ABDULLAH ALGHANNAM Defender

18 ABDULRAHMAN GHAREEB Midfielder

19 FAHAD ALMUWALLAD Forward

20 ABDULAZIZ ALBISHI Midfielder

21 MOHAMMED ALOWAIS Goal Keeper

22 MOHAMMED ALYAMI Goal Keeper

23 MOHAMMED AL FATIL Defender

qatar

afc ranking: 13

FIFA RANKING: 93

2019 will be Qatar’s 10th participation in the Asian Cup, with their best finishes quarter-final appearances in 2000 and 2011. The hosts of the 2022 World Cup look to make a solid showing in the lead up to the Cup.

COACH

Félix Sánchez Bas. Sanchez Bas managed the Barcelona youth side for 10 years and has been a part of Qatar football since 2013, having managed the U19, U20 and U23 teams before finally getting the call up to the senior team in July of 2017.

LAST SIX GAMES

D-W-L-W-W-W

STAR PLAYER

Abdelkarim Hassan. The 25 year old defender just won the 2018 Asian Footballer of the Year Award. He is currently on loan to Eupen, a Belgium domestic club.

strengths

Strong form coming in and talented scoring options.

WEAKNESSES

Little experience against high level international opposition

random quote

“They have talent, they are technical,” - Xavi Hernández “The big difference is, tactically, they don’t know how we attack, how we defend. That is the big difference. Conceptuality. On the field.”

VERDICT

While Qatar has a slim chance of making a finals appearance, they have the ability to make some noise in the group stage and potentially a couple of games in the knockout stage.

QATAR SQUAD

1 SAAD AL SHEEB Goal Keeper

2 PEDRO CORREIA Defender

3 ABDELKARIM HASSAN Defender

4 TAREK SALMAN Defender

5 AHMED FATHY Midfielder

6 ABDELAZIZ HATIM Midfielder

7 AHMED ALAAELDIN ABDELMOTAAL Forward

8 HAMID ISMAEIL KHALEEFA Defender

9 KHALED MOHAMMED Midfielder

10 HASAN ALHAYDOS Forward

11 AKRAM HASSAN AFIF Forward

12 KARIM BOUDIAF Midfielder

13 TAMEEM MOHAMMED ALMUHAZA Defender

14 SALEM AL HAJRI Midfielder

15 BASSAM ALRAWI Defender

16 BOUALEM KHOUKHI Midfielder

17 A.RAHMAN MOHAMED MOUSTAFA Midfielder

18 ABDULKAREEM SALEM AL-ALI Defender

19 ALMOEZ ALI Forward

20 ALI HASSAN AFIF Midfielder

21 YOUSOF HASSAN ALI Goal Keeper

22 MOHAMMED AHMED ALBAKRI Goal Keeper

23 ASSIM OMER MADIBO Defender

lebanon

afc ranking: 9

fifa ranking: 81

Lebanon will be participating in just their second Asian Cup in 2019 after hosting the 2000 tournament.

coach

Miodrag Radulović. Former manager of Serbia and Montenegro at the 2004 Olympics, Lebanon marks Radulovic’s second international coaching position after his hiring in 2015. While moderately successful in his other coaching roles at smaller domestic clubs, he is yet to prove himself at a higher level. With three years of coaching this Lebanon team, the Asian Cup will be the first real test for the 51 year old manager.

last SIX games

L-L-D-L-D-W

star player

Hassan Maatouk. Lebanon's captain and one goal short of being the all-time international goal scorer, he is their most prolific scoring threat.

strengths

They can score readily and have a strong, mobile forward line.

weaknesses

A fairly dismal lack of success and experience in international competition

random quote

“We have a great spirit and this is because I have worked a lot on the psychological side of the game with the players,” Radulovic said. “I talk a lot with them individually and try to push them to have confidence. You can see this has worked. No-one believed in Lebanon when qualifying started but we won the group.”

VERDICT

Despite a steady footballing resurgence since 2014, Lebanon will likely struggle to escape the group stage against more talented competition.

LEBANON SQUAD

1 MEHDI KAHLIL Goal Keeper

2 KASSEM EL ZEIN Defender

3 MOOTAZ BELLAH EL JOUNAIDI Defender

4 NOUR MANSOUR Defender

5 SAMIR AYASS Midfielder

6 JOAN OUMARI Defender

7 HASSAN MAATOUK Forward

8 HASSAN CHAITO Forward

9 HILAL ALHELWE Forward

10 MOHAMAD HAIDAR Midfielder

11 ROBERT ALEXANDER MELKI Midfielder

12 ADNAN HAIDAR Midfielder

13 GEORGE FELIX MELKI Defender

14 NADER MATAR Midfielder

15 HAYTHAM FAOUR Midfielder

16 HASSAN CHAITOU Midfielder

17 MOHAMAD ZEIN EL ABIDINE TAHAN Defender

18 WALID ISMAIL Defender

19 ALI HAMAM Defender

20 RABIH ATAYA Forward

21 AHMAD TAKTOUK Goal Keeper

22 BASSEL JRADI Forward

23 MOSTAFA MATAR Goal Keeper

north korea

afc ranking: 18

fifa ranking: 109

Competing in their fifth Asian Cup. you never quite know what you're going to get with the North Koreans.

coach

Kim Yong-Jun. Active midfielder for Pyongyang City FC who is also listed as the head coach for the North Korean National Football Team.

last SIX games

L-D-W-D-W-L

star player

Jong Il-Gwan. All-time leading international goal scorer for North Korea with 20 in 62 games. Currently playing in the Swiss domestic league.

STRENGTHS

With a strong goalkeeping presence, the North Koreans are generally well-organised defensively with a determined work ethic.

weaknesses

Relatively little international success or experience. A competitive group draw means a likely group stage elimination.

Random quote

Lebanese footballer Soony Saad, on playing a friendly in North Korea: "At first I thought, maybe I should say I'm injured," he said half-jokingly. "You see the news and all this nuclear war stuff..."

verdict

Reasonably little is known about the playing roster or the coach. After exiting at the Group Stage the last two Asian Cups, they're unlikely to progress.

north korea squad

1 RI MYONG GUK Goal Keeper

2 KIM CHOL BOM Defender

3 JANG KUK CHOL Defender

4 KIM SONG GI Defender

5 AN SONG IL Defender

6 RI THONG IL Defender

7 HAN KWANG SONG Forward

8 RI HYOK CHOL Forward

9 KIM YONG IL Midfielder

10 PAK KWANG RYONG Forward

11 JONG IL GWAN Forward

12 KIM KYONG HUN Midfielder

13 SIM HYON JIN Defender

14 KANG KUK CHOL Midfielder

15 RI UN CHOL Midfielder

16 RI YONG JIK Midfielder

17 RI CHANG HO Defender

18 SIN HYOK Goal Keeper

19 RIM KWANG HYOK Forward

20 CHOE SONG HYOK Midfielder

21 KANG JU HYOK Goal Keeper

22 RI KUM CHOL Midfielder

23 RI IL JIN Defender

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