If you were to judge the chances of UAE in this game from their singing of the national anthem, you wouldn’t have given them much chance. A lackluster performance, devoid of any spirit…luckily they were much better on the pitch. If only someone had told them you don’t have to score from 25 yards.

Korea DPR started as slight favourites basically due to the fact they were in the World Cup in South Africa. And they wouldn’t have prayed for a better start, a floated ball over the top was flicked back by Captain Hong Yong-Jo into the path of VfL Bochum striker Jong Tae-Se. A blatant push in Jong’s back by Hamdan Al Kamali and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot.

The Captain was given the penalty responsibilities over star-striker Jong. He looked calm enough waiting for the signal to take the kick, he went for placement over power and could only watch as his penalty collided with the crossbar and flew out for a goal-kick.

Korea then tried to find Jong with a number of deep crosses from the left; the striker did very well to win the ball on a few occasions but with the UAE defence aware of his threat they combined well to snuff out the danger.

UAE then went on the attack and Korean goalkeeper Ri Myong-Guk had to be at his best. Subait Khater played in a free-kick from deep, Ri’s punch clear wasn’t convincing the ball fell at the feet of Ismail Al Hammadi but Ri recovered very well to make an instinct save with his feet.

Ri was under pressure again minutes later when Cha Jong-Hyok tried to clear the ball but ended up slicing the clearance towards Ismail Mater again Ri had to react quickly to block the midfielders shot.

Subait Khater was showing the danger he possessed from set-pieces, he drilled in a free-kick from 40 yards out Hamdan Al Kamali managed to get underneath the ball and flick the header goal wards, the Koreans could only watch on as it flashed over the bar.

The UAE were in the ascendancy Al Hammadi played a great pass round the central defender and released Ahmad Khalil he then cut back onto his right foot and tried his luck with a curled effort looking for the far corner, a good effort but it curled just past the post.

Creating some great chances by playing some excellent passes from deep Amer Abdulrahman created the next opening with a ball chipped over the top of the Korea defence, not realising he had time and space Ismail Matar tried a difficult first time volley and skied his effort over the bar.

After being on the front foot for the best part of half an hour it’s no surprise they had the last chance of the half. Khater’s free-kick was played to the back post, knocked down by Walid Abbas, Yousef Jaber should have done a lot better to keep his shot on target.

Although they had a great start Korea DPR very lucky to go into the interval with the scores level. The UAE will worry if the missed chances will come back to haunt them.

Korea DPR made a change early in the second half, bringing off Captain Hong Yong-Jo for Chol Hyok-An, it didn’t make any difference the UAE remained the dominant team throughout the second half.

The first chance fell to their Captain Subait Khater with his ferocious left foot he unleashed a bomb towards the Korea goal, luckily for Ri it flew safely over the bar, an early reminder of the power Khater possesses.

Ismail Mater was the next in line for a pop at the Korea goal, capitalising on a defensive mistake he tried his luck from 25 yards the ball wickedly swerving just past the post. Quite obvious that he fancies himself from long range his next effort however showed he has a lot of practice in front of him. The shot was full of power but lacked any direction.

Overall the UAE had too many shots from long range. When they did get the ball in the box with only two minutes left Ri had to be at his best. Khater swung in the right footed cross, substitute Saeed Al Kathiri rose in between two defenders got his header on target but Ri was at his best again to turn the header past the post.

Not the worst 0-0 in the history of football but a very disappointing performance from Korea DPR, no shots on target and only five to speak of in the whole match. UAE will rue the amount of chances they had. Maybe if they tried to work the ball closer to the goal they might have more luck.

Afterwards UAE striker Ismail Matar thought his team had the chance to win the match.

“We played a good match tonight although in the first 10 minutes, we got lucky when DPR Korea missed their penalty,”

“But we came back strongly into the game and I thought that we did well. But we missed too many chances and they also have a good goalkeeper who played very well.

“But we tried our best and although the draw may not have been a fair result for us, I think that getting a point is a good start for us. We still have a good opportunity to qualify for the next round but we
have to assert ourselves and try to be more confident in ourselves when we play our next game against Iraq because this is football and anything can happen.

“We have to fight, we have to give our best on the field and I think we can win our games.”

Korea DPR coach Jo tong-Sop didn’t think much to his team’s performance.

“We had a chance with the penalty in the first-half but after the failure of the penalty, the players did not play well.

“In the second-half, we tried not to concede a goal and score on the counter-attack but still the players did not play well. So generally, I could say our play was not so good. It was not as we had expected.

“Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose but generally, we try not to concede a goal so we emphasise defence and in this way we organised the game.

“We try to win the match but we have experience from this game and we can take this into the next two.

“Those two teams (Iran and Iraq) will be very difficult to play against but we know their weaknesses and we will try to use that to get the points that we will qualify.”

Both sides will need to try and win their next match if they want to progress in the tournament, Korea DPR take in Iran and the UAE will face Iraq. It’s all the play for in Group D.

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One of the most one sided games of the competition so far. The post match stats say it all. Australia had 65% of possession and India had only seven shots at goal, two of them on target. No corner kicks for India, shows they had no attacking intent what so ever.

You would think if they weren’t willing to attack and have a go at the Australians maybe they will defend with their lives and keep the game tight….eh no. Throughout the match India’s defending was very poor, no pressure on the ball, poor marking just an awful performance.

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We’re not even one week into this year’s Asian Cup and use of the word “deflection” has tripled. This match was no different. The heavily fancied Koreans did enough to earn all three points off a disappointing Bahrain side.

In what was to be a overall poor performance from both sides it was Park Ji-Sung and the Koreans that started well. The Manchester United player was set up by Lee Chung-Yong but his shot failed to test Mahmood Mansoor. Apart from the early effort Park was not as influential as he would have liked.

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A game that will be remembered for deflected goals and the good, bad and the ugly from the goalkeepers. However a fantastic day for the people of Syria, victory over the three time Asian Cup Winners is no mean feat.

It was clear to see from the off that Syria weren’t going to lie down and let the Saudi’s take the game to them. Wael Ayan’s early shot although high and wide had the venom behind it that showed they meant business. They started the first half strong and with the vocal support backing them up they continued to pepper the Saudi box with crosses.

Mohamed Al Zino was the first to really test Waleed Abdullah in the Saudi net, his 25 yard strike was hit well and Abdullah had to get his whole body behind the shot to avoid embarrassment.

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The second day’s action in the Asian Cup seemed to have a little more quality to it then the competition opener. Although the result could have been different it was the “Red Machine” that eventually triumphed.

From the start China’s #10 Deng Zhuoxiang stood out as a player with quality, spraying some excellent passes from his dangerous left foot, it would come back to punish the Kuwaitis in the second half.

Early on the underdogs Kuwait should have had a penalty. Quite fitting that five years ago China’s Captain Du Wei was making his debut for Celtic against Clyde in the Scottish Cup, and it was the very same player that without getting anywhere near the ball swiped Bader Al Mutwa’s legs from underneath him. A clear penalty but the referee gave nothing. If only Du Wei had the same luck that day at Broadwood Stadium.

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Today saw the opening match of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, the hosts Qatar were up against Uzbekistan. Let’s just say it didn’t go according to plan for the hosts on their big day.

After an uninspired first half it was up to defender Odil Akhmedov to start the tournament off with a BANG! Stepping up from back, 30 yards from goal Ahmedov tried his luck and fired a wonderful goal past the flailing Qasem Burhan in the Qatar net.

The home crowd inside the Khalifa International Stadium groaned when the home side went 2-0 down. A poor backpass from left-back Ibrahim Majed put 2008 Asian Football of the Year Server Djeparov in on goal and all he had to do was sidefoot the ball past Burhan and the Uzbeki’s had the 2-0 victory which puts then in pole position to qualify from Group A.

Qatar coach Bruno Metsu came out with an honest account of his teams performance:

“Today is a very bad start for our team,” he said.

“We wanted to play well for the people, for everybody but we played a very bad game today. I’m sorry for the fans, for everybody but sometimes it is very difficult to play well right from the start of a tournament, particularly with pressure on the players.

“I hope that the team will improve and I think it is very possible because today there were many mistakes and the players need to give something more for the next game.”

On the opposite side Uzbekistan’s coach Vadim Abramov seemed very confident of his teams performance:

“I’m very sorry for Qatar people because this was a big celebration for them,” he said.

“They (the players) played great today but this is not our maximum, I still think that we can play much better.

“We got the three points today and we are happy now but we should not relax for the next match. We will enjoy this now but tomorrow we will look to the next match.

“The fact that we beat Qatar today will help us for the next game.”

Tomorrow Kuwait will take on China in the Al Gharafa Stadium a win for either team will give them a great chance to progress.

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After yesterday’s preview it’s time to look at the player that hopefully will be dazzling us with their ability over the next four weeks. So here are ten players to watch out for, some of them I highly recommend, some of them I will be watching out for myself. Usually a bad sign when you get recommended on this site.

Ki Sung-Yueng – Korea Republic

When you mention the Korea Republic people automatically mention Park Ji-Sung of Manchester United and Park Chu-Young of Monaco however one of the most impressive players in Korea’s team is Celtic’s Ki Sung-Yueng. Only 21 years old and he has 21 caps for his country and four World Cup appearances.

After a tough first year at Celtic Park Ki returned from South Africa and was full of confidence, after a slow start he has made his way into the team and before leaving for Qatar he has become a first team regular. He has impressed the Parkhead faithful with his quality of passing, and calmness on the ball. He was named Young Player of the Month for October and it says a lot when Celtic fans now think they will miss him of the month of January.

Very impressive at the World Cup he was the lynchpin of most of Korea’s excellent passing football, also deadly from set-pieces he set up the first goal as Korea went on to brush aside Greece in their opening game. Growing in stature with every passing moment big things are expected from Ki.

Thomas Oar – Australia

A replacement in the Australia squad for Richard Garcia due to injury Thomas is a relevant unknown but has done enough in his young career to make a few people sit up and take notice.

Signing for FC Utrecht in March he has only made a handful of appearances, most memorably he came on with 20 minutes to go at Anfield in the Europa League tie against Liverpool, making a sudden impact he had commentators purring over his cameo.

It was the same when he started his career in Australia, after signing for the Brisbane Roar back in 2008 it only took him two games to open his account, playing against the Wellington Phoenix his 91st minute free-kick was the match winner.

Playing on the left wing, the references to “the next Harry Kewell” are made often. Thomas does possess a fantastic left foot but he can also use his right to devastating effect. It is no wonder Utrecht were quick to snap him up. One for the future for sure.

Ahmad Ayad – Iraq

Anyone known as the Iraqi Messi has to be worth a watch. A 19 year old winger from Baghdad currently playing his football for Persija Jakarta in Indonesia, with a very impressive record from his days in Iraq he is certainly one to watch. 35 goals in 84 games for Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya.

Not much else is known about Ahmad this tournament could be the ideal place for him to add to his 15 caps and make a statement to the watching world. He certainly is one to watch; at 17 he was named the Iraq Super League MVP by a fan vote.

Yuto Nagatomo – Japan

Nagamoto stood out during Japan’s run in the World Cup his constant runs down the left from his full back position were very impressive, naturally right footed he has the ability to cut inside and unleash some very dangerous shots.

Got his big move to Serie A after the tournament and has been playing for minnows A.C Cesena on loan from FC Tokyo. It has been a quick progression for the 24 year old. A member of the 2008 Olympic team he was then named in the J-League’s rookies of the year. Arsene Wenger then named him in his best XI of the World Cup.

His defensive abilities are not as good as his attacking side. Much more comfortable when going forward, this tournament will surely give him the chance to express that side even more.

Talal Al-Bloushi – Qatar

This one is a little bit of a long shot. After the World Cup was awarded to Qatar the world wanted to know more about this unknown quantity. One of the most common things people found was this video.

Ladies and Gentleman we present Talal Al-Bloushi of Qatari club Al-Sadd, with tens of thousands of people watching the video and laughing at this unknown player, surely he could now go on to have a fantastic tournament.

At only 24 he already has 64 caps for his country and four goals from midfield. He must have some ability to play so many times for someone so young, now is the time for Talal to come up with some new reasons for people to watch his videos on YouTube.

Hao Junmin – China

Probably best known so far in Europe for handing over the #7 jersey when Schalke signed Raul from Real Madrid. It could have been an awkward situation but Hao grew up a huge Raul fan so there was no issue.

His chances at Schalke have been limited so far this season, only three appearances to date. He will relish the chance to get on the field and show the World what he has to offer. Chinese Young player of the year in 2005 and 2007 Hao has obvious ability. Able to finish with both feet, good on the ball, obvious pace, he can also be a danger from set-pieces.

At the young age of 23 there is plenty of time to add to his 28 caps, and he will be eager to add to his national teams goal tally, only one of his six goals have come in a competitive match.

Sunil Chhetri – India

Sunil is a strange but very interesting player, after playing in numerous teams around India he had an unsuccessful trial at Coventry City this was sparked by a hat-trick for India in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup.

With 40 caps and 19 goals for his country he is an experienced international player although he has still to do anything of note outside of India. He signed for the Kansas City Wizards in March of 2010, yet to play in the MLS his first appearance came against the Colorado Rapids in a cup match, he was removed at half-time and picked up a yellow card.

His next appearance came against Manchester United in a friendly, he came on with 20 minutes to go as Kansas went on to win although down to 10 men. Manager Peter Vermes was quoted as saying he was impressed with Sunil’s craft, technique and his attacking tendencies.

Now aged 26 this could be his big chance to impress his club and whoever else might be watching, with no pressure on India to perform it could be the ideal situation for Sunil to turn some heads.

Ehsan Hajsafi – Iran

The most promising player in Asian football, well that’s what the reports say, Ioan Andone the Romanian manager of his club side Sepahan has said that Ehsan could make it in any European league. This 20 year old left back has the world at his feet.

Able to play at left back or further up in the midfield, with a wonderful left foot he had 13 assists last season but can also pop up with a few goals, five in all competitions last year. But unlike Gareth Bale he can move the ball to his right foot and finish just as well.

He has recently been playing in the U-23 Asian Games, Iran knocked out by Japan in he Semi-Finals. Ehsan played in all seven of Iran’s games. Now is his time to impress with the full team, very few doubt his ability.

Louay Chanko – Syria

One of Syria’s most successful footballers Louay was born in Södertälje, Sweden and has spent his career moving round various Swedish teams. His most successful moments came when he lifted the Swedish title and cup double with Djurgarden in 2002, and he lifted the title again in 2004 with Malmo.

In 2009 he moved away from Sweden and signed for AaB Aalborg in Denmark, the move seems to be a success as he has scored three goals in 47 games, not bad for a midfielder.

Born in Sweden he played for the team of his birth in 2008 in a friendly against Costa Rica, then in the same year he decided to change allegiances and made his debut for Syria in a World Cup qualifier against Kuwait and has now appeared six more times.

Deadly from set-pieces with his right foot, although he is 31 he is only one of two Syrian players to play their football in Europe and with over 250 games under his belt his experience will be vital to the Syrian team.

One other thing to note is that Aalborg fans have a song for Chanko, singing “Ya Ya Ya LOLO CHANKO Ya Ya Yeah” to the sound of Mr President’s Coco Jambo.

Naif Hazazi – Saudi Arabia

Al-Ittihad’s number 9 is one of the hottest young strikers in Asian football right now, only 21 and in three years for his club he has scored over 40 goals, now a bad return for someone so young.

His great form has continued over to the international game his goals against Iran and the UAE impressed in their World Cup qualification run. 10 goals in 13 games for his club this season, eight of them in the last ten games would have impressed Portuguese manager Jose Peseiro and should be enough to give him a starting spot for the Saudi team.

The tournament kicks off this Friday as Qatar play Uzbekistan in Doha. Eurosport are covering the game, However it seems the games will be shown recorded.

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Even though the wonderful guys over at twofootedtackle whipped up a fantastic Asian Cup preview this morning, plans were already afoot for gibfootballshow to provide our own, so here it is.

This Friday night the eyes of the World will turn to Qatar as they host the 2011 AFC Asian Cup. With people tuning in not just to see the best of Asian talent but to see how Qatar cope hosting an event half the size of FIFA’s grand showpiece.

Sixteen teams will compete for the fifteenth Asian Cup. With the inclusion of six past champions (Israel being the only one not there of course.) there is a mixture of the better known teams Japan, Korea Republic, Australia and the lesser known Jordan, Syria and Bahrain.

Pressure you feel on the home nation to prove they are worthy of a World Cup spot albeit for a tournament in 11 years time. Korea DPR will look to improve on there impressive showing in South Africa with this their 3rd appearance in the tournament. Iraq and Saudi Arabia will hope to have an impressive tournament after both reached the final last time but failed to appear in South Africa last year.

With all the claims the Qatari bid made with their World Cup stadia plans people will be disappointed to hear that only two stadiums planned for the event in 2022 will be used in the competition. The 50,000 seater Khalifa International Stadium in Doha will host the opening game between Qatar and Uzbekistan and the final on January the 29th.

The Al-Gharafa Stadium also in Doha is the other World Cup stadium being used of course the plans are to increase it to 44,000 from it’s current 22,000 seats. Out of the other three stadiums only one can be found outside Doha.

Al-Rayyan’s Ahmed bin Ali Stadium will host all of Saudi Arabia and Iraq’s fixtures and organisers will hope to fill the 25,000 seats for each game and really ramp up the atmosphere of the tournament.

Back in 2007 the tournament was held in July with co-hosts Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. This year’s cup was moved to January to cope with the increased heat in the Middle East it is still expected to be around 25 degrees when the games start on Friday.

Younis Mahmoud’s 72nd minute goal was enough to see Iraq overcome Saudi Arabia 1-0 to lift the 2007 Asian Cup and complete a fairytale story for the war-torn nation. Reaching the final they beat Australia, Vietnam and the Korea Republic, although they only scored seven goals they played some great football and deserved the victory.

Saudi Arabia would have been disappointed with their finish to the tournament, top scorers with twelve goals and wins over the Korea Republic and Japan they would have felt like favourites for the cup but Mahmoud’s seventh goal was enough to cause the upset.

Looking at the four groups there are some mouth-watering encounters. Qatar have a great chance of reaching the Quarter-Finals and so will their opponents, Kuwait, China and Uzbekistan will all fancy their chances of getting out of Group A.

Group B sees favourites Japan and Saudi Arabia lock horns and surely Syria and Jordan will need a miracle to advance, however in a three game group there are no certainties for qualification.

In Group C Australia will fancy their chances of reaching the last eight, a tough test against the Korea Republic sandwiched by games against India and Bahrain. The last group is surely the “Group of Death” Iraq, Iran, Korea DPR and the United Arab Emirates will be a scene out of a George Bush tea party. All four teams from Group D will be eager to advance.

According to a popular betting site it’s no surprise to see Japan, Australia and South Korea as outright favourites to lift the trophy. Holders Iraq are deemed as a long shot to regain their title at 21/1. Most people will look to the big three for the winner come the end of January however it’s worth watching Korea DPR and the Saudis.

For people with access to TV channel Eurosport will be happy to know they will be broadcasting the tournament from this Friday.

Stay tuned tomorrow for ten players to watch for in the tournament.

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