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10 of the Best: Group stage match-ups


Saturday, December 29, 2018
Iraq v Iran

Kuala Lumpur: There are just seven days until the big kick-off of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, with teams and fans beginning to descend on the United Arab Emirates. 


As ever, the group stage will throw up a number of intriguing clashes between the nations, so, next in the '10 of the Best' series, the-AFC.com has picked out 10 standout fixtures to keep an eye out for.

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United Arab Emirates v Bahrain



The opening game of a tournament always generates widespread excitement and it is regional rivals the UAE and Bahrain who face off in the curtain raiser in Group A on January 5.

When the UAE finished third in Australia four years ago, they claimed a narrow 2-1 win over Bahrain in the group stage, with Ali Mabkhout scoring the AFC Asian Cup’s fastest ever goal after just 14 seconds. The Bahrainis may view this as a chance for revenge.



United Arab Emirates v Bahrain


Venue: Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi


Kick-off: January 5, 20:00 UTC+4




Korea Republic v Philippines

Continental heavyweights and competition debutants collide when Group C gets underway, with two-time winners Korea Republic providing one of the toughest possible starts for the Philippines, who will look for support from a sizable expatriate community in the Emirates.



After narrowly missing out on qualification for Australia 2015, the Azkals finally booked their place this time round, while the Taeguk Warriors are looking for their first title since 1960 after again finishing as runners-up four years ago.



Korea Republic v Philippines


Venue: Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai


Kick-off: January 7, 17:30 UTC+4




Vietnam v Iraq

Two teams who will have aspirations of advancing deep into the tournament go head-to-head in their opening Group D match as 2007 champions Iraq take on recently crowned AFF (ASEAN Football Federation) Cup winners Vietnam.



The Southeast Asians have not appeared in the tournament since Iraq’s victorious 2007 campaign, when the Lions of Mesopotamia defeated the Golden Stars 2-0 in the quarter-finals after a brace from Younis Mahmoud.



Vietnam v Iraq


Venue: Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi


Kick-off: January 8, 17:30 UTC+4




Japan v Turkmenistan

The AFC Asian Cup’s most successful team, four-time winners Japan, will again be among the favourites in 2019, and they kick Group F off against Central Asians Turkmenistan.



The Samurai Blue were last crowned champions in 2011, while they also claimed glory in 2004, the first and only time the Turkmens have appeared at the continental competition.



Japan v Turkmenistan


Venue: Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi


Kick-off: January 9, 15:00 UTC+4




United Arab Emirates v India

Another team with a large expat population in the UAE is India, who will hope to have some support among the tens of thousands of Emiratis when they take on the hosts in Abu Dhabi on Matchday Two.



India are returning to the competition for the first time since 2011, and the Blue Tigers will hope to improve on a showing that saw them lose three from three as they aim to pick up their first AFC Asian Cup points since 1984.



United Arab Emirates v India


Venue: Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi


Kick-off: January 10, 20:00 UTC+4




Uzbekistan v Turkmenistan

The two nations took part in the first ever Central Asian derby in the continental competition when Alexander Genyrikh scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 victory for the Uzbeks in the 2004 group stage.



Fifteen years on and the rivals clash once more, with bragging rights at stake. For the first time ever, there are four sides from Central Asia at the tournament as the region’s teams continue to progress.



Uzbekistan v Turkmenistan


Venue: Rashid Stadium, Dubai


Kick-off: January 13, 20:00 UTC+4




Australia v Syria

The defending champions’ encounter with Syria in their final Group B game marks a rematch of the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 qualifying playoff in October 2017 which Australia edged 3-2 on aggregate after extra-time.



That match was full of drama and with Syria boasting an exciting frontline of 2017 AFC Player of the Year Omar Khribin and Omar Al Soma, as well as seeking revenge, this has the potential to also be a classic.



Australia v Syria


Venue: Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain


Kick-off: January 15, 17:30 UTC+4




Korea Republic v China PR

East Asian heavyweights will bring Group C to a close in the Emirati capital when Korea Republic take on China in what is the first time the sides have met in the competition since a 2-2 draw in the 2000 group stage in Lebanon.



More recently, the teams claimed a win apiece in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, with Korea Republic defeating China 3-2 in Seoul in September 2016 and the Chinese running out 1-0 winners in Changsha in March 2017.



Korea Republic v China PR


Venue: Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi


Kick-off: January 16, 17:30 UTC+4




Islamic Republic of Iran v Iraq

Arguably the most eagerly awaited tie of the group stage sees Iran and Iraq square off in a repeat of the 2015 quarter-finals – a scintillating 3-3 draw before the Iraqis eventually won 7-6 on penalties.



The Iranians may boast the better record at the tournament, but they have not tasted glory since 1976. The 2007 champions have the better recent history and will be desperate to defeat their neighbours once again.



Islamic Republic of Iran v Iraq


Venue: Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai


Kick-off: January 16, 20:00 UTC+4




Saudi Arabia v Qatar

It’s been some time since the Green Falcons and the Maroons have come up against each other in the AFC Asian Cup, with a goalless draw in Lebanon in the 2000 group stage their previous meeting.



On that occasion, the pair advanced to the quarter-finals and they will hope to have done likewise before bringing Group E to a close on January 17.



Saudi Arabia v Qatar


Venue: Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi


Kick-off: January 17, 20:00 UTC+4



Photos: Getty Images




Which of the 10 encounters do you think will be the most exciting at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 group stage? Cast your vote in the poll below.

Which game are you most looking forward to?
UAE v Bahrain
Korea Republic v Philippines
Vietnam v Iraq
Japan v Turkmenistan
UAE v India
Uzbekistan v Turkmenistan
Australia v Syria
Korea Republic v China
Iran v Iraq
Saudi Arabia v Qatar
Created with Survey Maker

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