Australia, S Korea play for top spot in Group C of Asian Cup
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australian and South Korea will fight it out for top spot their group, while already-eliminated Kuwait and Oman will be playing for pride alone when Group A of the Asian Cup wraps up Saturday.
Here’s some things to watch:
AUSTRALIA vs. SOUTH KOREA (0900 GMT) — With their quarterfinals spots already secured, the Brisbane match will decide top spot in Group A.
Australia trounced Oman 4-0 on Tuesday, while South Korea completed a less convincing 1-0 victory over Kuwait to advance.
The winner of Group A will likely face either Saudi Arabia or Uzbekistan, while the second placed finisher looks set for a quarterfinal against China.
“I don’t have any preference if it is China, Saudi Arabia or another team,” South Korea coach Uli Stielike said. “If you want to go far in this tournament you have to beat the number one or number two in the other group.”
Australia will hold a late training session Friday to give captain Mile Jedinak as long as possible to show his left ankle has recovered enough for him to play.
South Korea is equally determined to field its best team in Brisbane, with Stielike hoping to include midfielders Son Heung-min and Koo Ja-cheol, and goalkeeper Kim Jin-hyeon, who sat out the Kuwait match with colds.
Australia, which can top the group with a win or a draw, has not lost to South Korea in their five matches since 2011, winning two and drawing two, including a 1-1 draw in the group stage of the 2011 Asian Cup.
“We’re pretty clear on what our approach has been and what it will continue to be,” said Australia coach Ange Postecoglou said Friday. “There is a game of football to be played and every time that happens we’re going to try and win it.”
Australia is hunting its first Asian Cup title from three tournaments since switching to the Asian confederation. The Socceroos were runners-up in 2011. Two-time Asian Cup winner South Korea, which last claimed the title in 1960, finished third in 2011.
OMAN vs, KUWAIT (0900 GMT) — Both Kuwait and Oman are eliminated from this year’s Asian Cup and only regional pride will be on the line in Newcastle.
Kuwait will attempt to end its worst Asian Cup losing streak. The 1-0 defeat by South Korea means the 1980 champion has lost seven successive Asian Cup matches, scoring just two goals.
Oman, which was eliminated with a 4-0 loss to Australia, has fared little better with just one win from its past eight Asian Cup matches.
“We need to become more professional on and off the pitch,” Oman coach Paul Le Guen said. “The players have to experience the life of a professional. If you’re playing a match three days after facing the Korea Republic, you need to be prepared.”
Oman is undefeated against Kuwait in the past eight matches with four wins, including an emphatic 5-0 victory at last year’s Gulf Cup.
“The match versus Oman is very important and is not less important than the last two matches,” Nabil Maaloul said after Kuwait’s loss to South Korea. “The three points are important and the preparation will be the same as the last two games.”