Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Guide to the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011

The AFC Asian Cup 2011 is the first major soccer tournament of the new year. Following the tournament's qualification process, sixteen finalists will compete for the much-respected title of AFC Asian Champion in Qatar from January 7th to January 29th.

The AFC Asian Cup 2011 winner will qualify for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil. With a host of European-based stars such  as Tim Cahill (Australia and Everton), Shinji Kagawa (Japan and Borussia Dortmund) and Park Ji Sung (South Korea and Manchester United) on show, the 2011 Asian Cup is definitely one to watch for soccer fans around the world.

Here's the World Soccer Shop Everything You Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask Guide to the AFC Asian Cup 2011.



A PDF version of the AFC Asian Cup 2011 schedule is available at the AFC website at this link.

Team to Watch

Now an Asian powerhouse since moving from the Oceania Football Confederation in search of more challenging opposition, the Aussies are loaded with European-based talent. Following a disappointing run in the 2007 Asian Cup, the Socceroos are among the tournament favorites and will be looking to advance beyond the quarter-final round for the first time.

Big Group Stage Match: vs. South Korea on Janaury on January 14th. This match should determine top spot in a group also featuring Bahrain and India.

Key Players: Tim Cahill (Everton), Mark Schwarzer (Fulham FC), Brett Emerton (Blackburn Rovers)

Now rebuilding after surprisingly missing out on the final AFC qualification round for the 2011 FIFA World Cup, China has shown good form off late with friendly victories of Latvia and Estonia. China will have to maintain this form to advance from a tough group featuring hosts Qatar, Uzbekistan and Kuwait.

Big Group Stage Match: vs. Uzbekistan on January 16th. This could be a do or die match for the Chinese.

Key Players: Hao Junmin (Schalke 04), Qu Bo (Shaanxi Zhongjian)

With the most of the team that came within a penalty kick of the quater-finals of last summer's World Cup called up to represent Japan at the Asian Cup, anything less than a semi-final appearance will come as a shock to Blue Samurai fans. The team has shown fine form since the World Cup with recent friendly wins over Argentina and Paraguay.

Big Group Stage Match: vs. Saudi Arabia on January 17th. This match is expected to determine first place in Group B.

Key Players: Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow), Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund), Makoto Hasebe( VfL Wolfsburg)

They're not expected to advance beyond the first round in their first appearance in the Asian Cup since 1984. Nevertheless, India's national soccer program has been the beneficiary of significant investment from parties seeking to raise the profile of the sport to a market of over one billion Indian citizens. Good performances could do wonders for the sport in the cricket-mad economic power.

Big Group Stage Match: vs. Australia on January 10th. A good showing by the Indians will spur interest in the world's most second most populous country.

Key Players: Suni Chheteri (Sporting Kansas City), Bhaichung Bhutia (East Bengal)

The three-time champions and seemingly perpetual semi-finalists will be seeking a return to the final four of the Asian after a disappointing quarter-final exit in 2007 and an equally disappointing 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign.

Big Group Stage Match: vs. neighbors and long-time rivals Iraq on January 11th.

Key Players: Javad Nekounam (Osasuna), Masoud Shojaei (Osasuna)

Shock champions in 2007, Iraq will be looking to repeat in 2011 under manager former Werder Bremen boss Wolfgang Sidka. Though they are defending champions and gave a good showing in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup (with two draws and one loss), the turmoil in Iraq has left soccer in the country in a state of disarray and Iraq remains somewhat of an unknown quantity. A recent 1-0 loss to Syria followed by a 1-0 win at Saudi Arabia is indicative of this.

Big Group Stage Match: vs. neighbors  and long-time rivals Iran on January 11th.

Key Players: Younis Mahmoud (Al-Gharafa), Nashat Akram (Al-Wakrah)

Saudi Arabia
Either champions or second place finishers in an astounding six of the last seven AFC Asian Cups, Saudi Arabia knows how to find success in the tournament. The team is also looking to re-establish itself as an Asian power after missing out on its first FIFA World Cup since its debut on the world stage at USA 1994.

Big Group Stage Match: vs. Japan on January 17th. The winner should take first place in Group B.

Key Players:  Yasser Al-Qahtani (Al Hilal), Mohammad Al-Shalhoub (Al Hilal)

South Korea
Like rivals Japan, South Korea will send most of the team that came within a whisk of a 2010 FIFA World Cup quarter-final spot to Qatar. Featuring several players currently plying their trade in the English Premier League, Scottish Premier League and German Bundesliga, South Korea are among the favorites to take the cup home.

Big Group Stage Match: vs. South Korea on Janaury on January 14th. Expected to see who tops the Group C.

Key Players: Park Ji Sung (Manchester United), Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton Wanderers), Cha Du-Ri (Celtic FC)

Where to Watch
Free highlights will be available at the AFC Asian Cup YouTube Channel. ESPN STAR Sports has acquired the television rights to the tournament in Asia. For the U.S., One World Sports acquired the rights through World Sport Group, the AFC’s exclusive marketing and media partner.
One World Sports has licensed the full event to iN DEMAND, which will distribute the football tournament to Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Charter, Mediacom and a host of other U.S. affiliates; DISH Network; and Avail/TVN, which includes AT&T and Verizon FiOS among its affiliates. Matches can be purchased on a per-game basis through Pay-Per-View. Broadband coverage will be available live via One World Sports Broadband. Mobile coverage is on Verizon Wireless V CAST Video.

Photo Credits: Getty Images 

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