Football

Asian Cup 2015: Favourites dominate during qualifying

Ghoochannejhad celebrates after scoring against Thailand (©GettyImages)
Ghoochannejhad celebrates after scoring against Thailand (©GettyImages).

As clubs around the world were playing in Wold Cup Qualifiers, the Asian national teams were all busy playing their own qualifiers for the Asian Cup 2015.

The winner and runner-up of each group will go through to the Asian Cup along with the best third-placed team. Australia, Japan, North Korea and South Korea are already qualified.

Australia is the runner-up from the 2011 AFC Asian Cup as well as being host country. Japan was the winner in 2011 and South Korea took bronze, so these three countries are already qualified.

When it comes to Asia there is a cup called the AFC Challenge Cup. It was started in 2006 as an initiative to make it possible for undeveloped national teams to qualify to the AFC Cup each year. The Asian countries are divided in three groups, one being called the "developed associations", one the "developing associations" and one the "emerging associations" which are the teams the AFC deem "need time to develop their football."

The teams from the Emerging Association group are the ones who participate in the AFC Challenge Cup each year. The winner gets a ticket to the Asian Cup. The winner of the 2012 edition was North Korea so that's how they have qualified for the Asian Cup 2015. There will also be a AFC Challenge Cup in 2014 so one more team is going qualify via that path. 

In the following paragraphs I will be reporting on how the qualifying groups for the Asian Cup 2015 are looking, and teams who can potentially shake things up a bit.

Group A:

Oman 7 Pts

Jordan 5 Pts

Singapore 3 Pts

Syria 1 Pts

When it comes to Group A it is wide open. Oman is in the lead but Jordan beat Uzbekistan in order to go through to the play-off for the last World Cup place against Uruguay so they are no easy opponent to beat. I predict a group win for Jordan with Oman coming in at second place.

Group B:

I.R. Iran 7 Pts

Kuwait 5 Pts

Lebanon 4 Pts

Thailand 0 Pts

In this group the clear winner seems to be Iran with Kuwait and Lebanon fighting it out for that elusive second place. Lebanon was a serious problem away from home in the World Cup qualifying for Iran as they were one of two teams who managed to beat them. Lebanon is strong at home, having a 5-2 against Thailand in the bag along with a 1-1 draw with Kuwait. I predict the group winner to be Iran with Lebanon getting the second place.

Group C: 

Saudi Arabia 9 Pts

China P.R. 4 Pts

Iraq 3 Pts

Indonesia 1 Pt

Whilst SA has started strongly, China are looking strong and should not be underestimated. Iraq has just finished building their 80.000 seater national arena, but it is not yet clear weather the games will even be played in Iraq or not due to insecurities. First place Saudi Arabia, second place Iraq.

Group D:

Bahrain 7 Pts

Qatar 6 Pts

Malaysia 4 Pts

Yemen 0 Pts

This group is going to be very tight but I would think Qatars experience in the recent WC-Q campaign will give them that needed boost in order to seal the first place with Bahrain grabbing the second if Malaysia can't improve their game.

Group E:

U.A.E: 9 Pts

Uzbekistan 4 Pts

Hong Kong 4 Pts

Vietnam 0 Pts

When it comes to group E I believe the places are sealed. U.A.E. and Uzbekistan are head and shoulders above he rest competitors and I wouldn't be surprised if Uzbekistan stages a comeback and clinches the first position. First Uzbekistan, second: U.A.E.

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