AFC Asian Cup 2019 Draw: The Experts' View
Dubai: With the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Official Draw now just days away, we sought the views of five football experts from across the continent.
The 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates is set to be the largest version of the continental competition yet, with 24 teams going into the Official Draw to be held in Dubai on Friday.
As such, the-AFC.com reached out to each of the Asian Football Confederation's regions (WAFF, CAFA, SAFF, EAFF and ASEAN), for a representative to give their thoughts on the draw and how they see things potentially playing out.
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Abdullah Al Hanyan - Saudi Journalist, Ariyadhiah Newspaper
Mani Djazmi - Iran-born BBC World Service Presenter
Cedelf Tupas - Sports Journalist for Philippine Daily Inquirer
Aaditya Narayan - Indian Football Journalist
Shintaro Kano - Japanese Sports Writer
Who would you like to see your country drawn with?
Al Hanyan: When you want to win the title, it doesn't matter which teams you face. You should be ready to play against any team. But based on the seeding, I would like China PR, Kyrgyz Republic and the Philippines.
Djazmi: I think that [Islamic Republic of] Iran would be very happy with a group containing Thailand, Kyrgyz Republic and the Philippines. Iran have always struggled to overcome the derby element of playing Arabic nations, so this group would avoid that, as well.
Tupas: UAE, Thailand, and India. Just because this draw gives the Azkals the best possible chance of making the next round. I think getting drawn with the hosts puts the spotlight on the Philippines, a team that thrives in big moments. Thailand is a familiar foe and I like the Azkals’ chances against the Thais. India may be rising in the rankings and improving, but I think the Azkals, with their best players available, are capable of beating them.
Narayan: Ideally, I want us to play strong opponents so that we can gauge how big the gap is, for us to bridge. Since I'd likely be travelling to the UAE, I would want to watch Son Heung-min play in the flesh. So, for that reason, Korea Republic. From Pot 2, I'd like Qatar or Thailand, because I feel they are going to be the easier opponents to take points off if we can. And from Pot 4, hopefully, Yemen or Turkmenistan for the same reason.
Kano: Qatar, Vietnam, DPR Korea. First competitive tournament post-World Cup. Be it under the new coach or Akira Nishino, the three opponents, all fairly technically solid, should give Japan a good test on their first steps toward Qatar 2022.
Which teams would you like to see matched-up in the draw?
Al Hanyan: I would like to see Australia play Thailand, especially after their match in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in which Thailand got a draw and helped Saudi Arabia get the direct qualification ticket.
Djazmi: Given the large Indian and Filipino populations in the United Arab Emirates, match-ups between those teams and the hosts would also draw large crowds and create good atmospheres. From a purely football point of view, Syria had very good games against Iran and Australia during qualification for the FIFA World Cup, so a repeat of those fixtures would be very interesting.
Tupas: UAE vs Philippines. Always nice to get a crack at the hosts early on in the tournament. With so many Filipinos in the UAE, I don’t think there will be a shortage of support for the Azkals when they play this match. A stirring performance by the Azkals in this match will surely give happiness to Filipinos based in the UAE.
Narayan: I’d like to see Qatar v Korea Republic, in a repeat from the World Cup qualifying group, when Qatar managed to beat them at home. India playing the UAE would be nice too, since I grew up in Dubai. So my country of birth against the country I grew up in, would be nice from a personal viewpoint.
Kano: Saudi Arabia vs Qatar. It will be interesting to see how the 2022 hosts fare against a side who were just at the World Cup. Qatar cannot afford to be embarrassed here. Other match-ups I'd like to see would include IR Iran against Iraq and Japan vs China.
Which, for you, would be the proverbial “Group of Death”?
Al Hanyan: I would say UAE, Iraq, Oman and DPR Korea would be a really strong group.
Djazmi: I think that a group containing any of the top seeds, plus Syria, Palestine and DPR Korea would be very competitive. However, given that potentially three of the four could go through, the sense of jeopardy is somewhat diminished.
Tupas: UAE, Iraq, Oman and DPR Korea. Three teams that are quite familiar with each other and a powerhouse in DPR Korea in one group is just a mouth-watering prospect.
Narayan: Australia, Syria, Kyrgyz Republic and Jordan. Kyrgyz Republic have been playing some fantastic football recently, as we saw during the qualifiers. Australia and Syria played out an outstanding tie in the World Cup qualifying playoffs. And Jordan look to be among the stronger sides from Pot 4.
Kano: Korea Republic, Syria, Vietnam and DPR Korea. Korea Republic would be the big side of the pack but Syria are not too far off, having had their World Cup hopes dashed only in the play-off against Australia. Vietnam have always been one of the more tactically astute sides in the continent, and who would not want to see the Koreas play each other?
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