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5 things to look out for in November


Kuala Lumpur: As we edge ever closer to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 in January, teams enter the final stages of their preparations with the latest run of matches this month.

Asian football fans will get the chance to take a glimpse at how their favourite teams are shaping up ahead of the big date in the UAE in January. With the bulk of the 24 sides contesting the continental title in action this month, we look at five exciting things to watch for during the coming international break.

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2015 Final Re-run

November’s round of friendly matches brings along a repeat of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup final as reigning champions Australia welcome runners-up Korea Republic to Brisbane on November 17.

Both teams have changed managers twice since their last encounter, the Socceroos appointing Bert van Marwijk then Graham Arnold, while the Taeguk Warriors replaced Uli Stielike with Shin Tae-yong, then appointed Paulo Bento last August.

With two months to go until the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019, the Socceroos suffered a blow as starlet Daniel Arzani suffered an injury on his debut for Celtic FC, potentially ruling him out of the tournament in January.

Korea Republic, on the other hand, will be without English Premier League pair Son Heung-min and Ki Sung Yueng who have been left out by Bento. Nevertheless, there will be plenty to look out for in what’s arguably the pick of the November friendlies.


New names in the dugouts

Even as we get closer and closer to the Continental showpiece in January, the managerial revolving door continues to swing, with three new appointments looking to make their official debuts in charge of AFC Asian Cup participants this month.

Despite leading Yemen to qualify for the Finals for the first time in their history, Ethiopian coach Abraham Mebratu departed to take charge of his home country’s national team. Former Slovakia head coach Jan Kocian replaces him. The Slovak’s first test will be a trip to neighbouring Saudi Arabia for a friendly against the Green Falcons on November 16.

In Jordan, Belgian coach Vital Bokelmans became the eighth man to take charge of the Chivalrous since the late Ray Wilkins led the team in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. Borkelmans, who was assistant to Belgium coach Marc Wilmots in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, started his preparation mission with a second string side against Croatia in October, but will have the full squad as Jordan welcome India to Amman on November 17, then Saudi Arabia three days later.

Perhaps the biggest name to join the managerial appointment list is new Philippines manager Sven Goran Eriksson. The former England and Mexico head coach replaces Irishman Scott Cooper, having succeeded Terry Butcher. The Swede will be off to a busy start with four AFF Cup matches lined up in November, against Singapore, Timor-Leste, Thailand and Indonesia. Cooper will assist him in the tournament which kicks off on Thursday.


Life without Omar for UAE

October brought the UAE and the continent as whole the news that 2016 Asian Player of the Year Omar Abdulrahman has been ruled out of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 with an Anterior Cruciate Ligaments injury suffered in a Saudi league match for his club Al Hilal.

The 27-year-old rose to global fame on the back of his impressive performances in the previous tournament in 2015. Without him, coach Alberto Zaccheroni will face the task of identifying a focal point in his side’s attacking play.

The 2019 hosts start life without Abdulrahman with a strong friendly against Egypt on November 20, their first home friendly under the Italian coach, having started their preparations with two training camps in Spain earlier in the year.


Foreign based additions to Palestine squad

Ahead of their second appearance in the AFC Asian Cup, Palestine’s preparations saw them win the friendly Bangabandhu Cup in Bangladesh after defeating Tajikistan in the final last month.

This month, Palestine host Pakistan on November 15, before travelling to China PR for their second friendly five days later. Coach Noureddine Ould Ali has made intriguing changes, adding two previously uncapped names into the squad.

Nazmi Al Badawi, a 27-year-old midfielder plying his trade at US side FC Cincinnati, is in line to make his Palestine debut alongside goalkeeper Amr Kaddoura, 24, who plays for Landskrona BoIS in the Swedish second division.


AFC Champions League winners in action

By the time the international break gets underway, we will have learnt who the 2018 AFC Champions League winners are. Kashima Antlers take a 2-0 win to Persepolis’ Azadi Stadium for the return leg on November 10.

Between them, the two sides feature a number of international players who will head to national team camps either with the glory of a winners’ medal or the disappointment of coming so close.

Kashima defender Jung Seung-hyun made Bento’s Korea Republic squad. And while Japan’s squad for the friendly against Venezuela on November 16 is yet to be announced, Kento Misao will be confident of adding to his five caps for the Samurai Blue, having made coach Hajime Moriyasu’s most recent squad last month.

On the other side, Persepolis goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand is one of the first names on Carlos Queiroz’s IR Iran squads, while 36-year-old captain Jalal Hosseini will be hopeful Morteza Pouraliganji’s forced absence through injury will mean a return to Team Melli for him, having missed out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Bashar Resan’s displays this season saw him earn a starting place in midfield for Iraq and he can expect a call-up as well.

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