The tournament for the greatest prize in Asian football kicks off in the opening match of the 2015 Asian Cup, when the Socceroos take on Kuwait this Friday night at 7:30 pm Sydney time, in what will be the biggest sporting event in Australia since the 2000 Olympics.
2015 Asian Cup Preview
The Socceroos automatically qualified for the Asian Cup as they represent the host nation, the first such time in the event’s nearly sixty-year history it will be held outside the continent of Asia. While the other fifteen teams, with the exception of the automatic entry provided reigning Asian Cup winner Japan, were determined through a year long qualification process that involved 44 nations looking to showcase their skill down under.
The Socceroos, runner-ups in the Asian Cup last time out, reside in Group A along with Oman, South Korea and 1980 Asian Cup champs Kuwait. The top two finishers in Group A will enter the knockout stage, which starts on January 22, with the victors progressing as they look to etch their name on the honour roll. The Asian Cup winner and runner-up will each earn a trip to Moscow for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Australia vs. Kuwait Times
When: Friday, 9 January at 7:30 pm (Sydney Time)
Where: AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia
Live TV: Fox Sports (Foxtel) and ABC TV.
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Coach Ange Postecoglou has had the Socceroos main job since early 2014 and he is all about bringing in the younger generation to the team, something his predecessor Holger Osieck failed to achieve. Postecoglou has always been about short term pain, long term gain, and that started in the 2014 World Cup at Brazil. While the Socceroos didn’t win a game throughout the tournament, younger players such as Matthew Leckie and Jason Davidson shone while ‘that’ goal from Tim Cahill proved that he still has plenty to give at this stage in his career.
Since the World Cup, Australia has been a bit patchy in their form, with a loss to Belgium, followed by a win over Saudi Arabia. Next up came a draw against the UAE, before disappointing back-to-back losses to Qatar and reigning Asian Cup champions Japan respectively.
Socceroos Players to Watch
The two players that Kuwait need to keep an eye on are Robbie Kruse, who suffered a horrendous leg injury prior to the 2014 World Cup. He was a star for the Socceroos before then, helping them qualify. This will be his first tournament for the green and gold since the injury, and he will want to make it a memorable tournament. His footwork and speed can lead to plenty of opportunities for the likes of Tim Cahill, who has been a star for the last decade or so, starting off with Premier League side Everton, playing over 200 games for the London club before joining the New York Red Bulls. He will go down as the greatest Socceroo and despite his age, he is still one of the most lethal strikers and scorers in the world.
Kuwait, nicknamed ‘The Blue’, will be looking to do better than their effort in the 2011 Asian Cup, where they failed to get a point in the group stage. Their form since has been okay without being spectacular. Coach Jordan Viera was sacked after Kuwait failed to reach the knockout stage of the 2014 Gulf Cup of Nations and he was replaced by Nabil Maaloul.
Since coach Maaloul has taken over, they have only played the one match, against Iraq in Sharjah. They led 1-0 at half time before Iraq made things level and the final score was 1-1.
Kuwait Players to Watch
Yousef Nassar was one of the players in that 2011 squad that failed to register a point, so he will be putting in extra work for sure in the hope to do his country proud. He is a damaging midfielder that can create chances where it doesn’t seem like anything is going to eventuate, as is the case with Aziz Mashaan, who is an absolute speedster with plenty of tricks up his sleeve. His flair and brilliance hasn’t gone unnoticed, with some major European clubs like FK Pribham and Montepellier HSC requiring his services.
Three Reasons To Watch Australia vs Kuwait:
1. It’s the opening match of the tournament!
2. Australia on their home soil.. how will they handle the high expectations?
Last Time They Met:
January 6 2010, Kuwait City, Kuwait (2011 Asian Cup Qualifier)
Kuwait 2-2 Australia