AFC Asian Cup 2019 Group C: Two of this, two of that!

Two Asian powerhouses — South Korea and China — and two debutants — Kyrgyz Republic and Philippines — make up Group C of the AFC Asian Cup 2019.

Having won the 2018 Asian Games, South Korea will be the undoubted favourite to advance from Group C.   -  Reuters

Of the six groups at the AFC Asian Cup 2019, Group C looks the most uncomplicated. China PR and South Korea, two Asian football powerhouses, have been clubbed with Philippines and Kyrgyz Republic, who will be making their debuts.

The 2015 finalist Korea, the first team in the group to qualify for the tournament, will be on the hunt for its first title since 1960 while twice runner-up China, whose recent record in the competition doesn’t read well, should have enough firepower to get past the debutants.

South Korea qualified for the finals by winning its group in the second round of World Cup-cum-Asian Cup qualifying, winning all eight games and scoring 27 times without conceding a single goal. China finished second in its group and qualified as the fourth best runner-up. Kyrgyzstan was runner-up in its qualification group, losing the top spot to India on head-to-head away goals scored, while Philippines went undefeated in its group and finished on top.

Leader of the pack: South Korea’s Son Heung-min (No. 13) is the dynamo of the team.   -  AFP

The Taegeuk Warriors had a disappointing World Cup, losing their first two games before recording a memorable 2-0 win against the defending champion Germany. Since then, the side has played six friendly games, winning three — including one against Uruguay — and losing none. It has one friendly, with Saudi Arabia in Abu Dhabi, lined up before its Asian Cup campaign. Son Heung-min, Asia’s most expensive export at €30 million, will be its standout player. While he did guide South Korea to an Asian Games medal, he will be hoping to do better and take his country to a first domestic title since 1960 — and make up for losing to Australia in the 2015 final.

China goes into the AFC Cup on the back of an uninspiring run of games. It has played five friendlies in the last two months and managed to win just one. It will wrap up its preparation for the tournament with friendlies against Iran and Jordan, in Doha. Striker Wu Lei will be China’s main source for goals. The forward, who is set to make his second appearance in the competition, plies his trade with Shanghai SIPG — alongside the likes of Oscar and Hulk.

Livewire: Wu Lei is the go-to man of the Chinese team.   -  GETTY IMAGES


Since qualifying for the Asian Cup, which included a victory at home against India, Kyrgyzstan has played five friendly games and has had a mixed bag of results. It has won two games and lost two, conceding nine goals in total. The team's performances in UAE will rest on the form of Anton Zemlianukhin, the winger/attacking midfielder who plays in Kazakhstan. He scored six goals in the final four qualification games, helping his country take 10 points from them.

Philippines, unlike the other three, has played in two competitive tournaments since its qualification was secured — the AFF Suzuki Cup and the Bangabandhu Cup, reaching the semifinals in both. In fact, its final game in the AFF Suzuki Cup was in the first week of December and, going into the Asian Cup on the back of competitive games instead of friendlies, it could be one of the better-prepared teams in this group. If anyone can upset the predictions in this group, it will be Philippines. The team will look towards Phil Younghusband, its skipper, to guide it beyond the group stages in its debut appearance. He scored a penalty in the 90th minute to seal qualification with a 2-1 win over Tajikistan. That goal was also his 50th for the country.

Group C fixtures

January 7: China PR vs Kyrgyz Republic; Korea Republic vs Philippines

January 11: Philippines vs China PR; Kyrgyz Republic vs Korea Republic

January 16: Korea Republic vs China PR; Kyrgyz Republic vs Philippines


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