Asian Cup: Five things we learned from Group B

The wash-up from the first round of this group has Aussie fans riveted with, fingers crossed, the Socceroos expected to face one of these teams in the knock-out stage. Saturday was a good night for Uzbekistan and China but there are a lot more twists and turns before this one works itself out. David Hards takes us through Five Things we learned from Group B.

Andy Harper’s travel itinerary

This won’t include North Korea in the near future.  Fox Sports analyst Andy Harper attacked the North Korean’s lack of football development over the past four years.  While he was talking about the team’s inabilities, his comments “they’re just not progressive enough” may not be seen too kindly in North Korea.  Thankfully Kim Jong-un may not be watching the Fox Sports coverage.  In fairness to Harper, Korea DPR hasn’t scored a goal in the Asian Cup for 381 minutes – the goal was from Kim Gwang-Min in 1992 when Japan hosted (and won) the tournament.

Still, if Harper is on Asian Champions League duty he may have his travel visa denied on the basis of previous comments made.

Getting three points is never a bad thing

Uzbekistan has their keeper to thank for saving them in the final stages of the game, but they were the deserved winners on the night.  Korea DPR seemed content to stand back and wait for things to happen, even when Uzbekistan went ahead on the hour mark. The White Wolves never looked like losing the game, but also never looked like a team capable of going deep in the tournament.  Three points is three points, but Uzbekistan must up the tempo in their next game against China.

In the end a sublime cross from Captain Server Djeparov and classy header from Igor Sergeev saved some blushes from the more fancied side. Sergeev has scored five goals in his nine appearances for his country and is certainly one to watch for the remainder of the Cup.

Paying the penalty

Saudi Arabia were handed a chance to take the lead and the ascendancy after a Sunday league tackle from Ren Hang handed Naif Hazazi a golden opportunity from the penalty spot.  Keeping in the Sunday league spirit the penalty was easily saved by birthday boy and China goalkeeper Wang Dalei and the rest is history.  Despite having 64% of possession in the second half the dismal penalty was the only shot on target for the blunt Saudi’s. 

When you concede a goal from a cruel deflection you know your luck is out, but when you miss a penalty in the same game you have only yourself to blame.

Home sweet home in Brisbane

We know China is the most populous country in the World, but the Chinese fans aren’t normally renowned for their passion.  Brisbane turned into a second home during the final clash of Saturday’s triple header.  The crowd was in full voice for the full 90 minutes and full of support for 11 time finalists, China.  The game was an evenly matched affair on the pitch but the crowd support for Team Dragon was enough to get their team over the line.  Brisbane host China once again when they take on Uzbekistan – expect the support on Wednesday night to be just as fervent. 

If the Chinese are to defy the odds and top Group B they could prove a genuine threat to win tournament.

Anyone superstitious?

Chinese fans will be wary celebrating their third successive Asian Cup opening match win.  The 2007 and 2011 editions saw China triumph in their first games only to falter at the group stage despite promising starts. Uzbekistan has also been in China’s group in 2007, 2011 and now once again in 2015.  Unluckily for China in 2007 and 2011 they faced the White Wolves in their final game of the group stage which ended in elimination. 

Australia 2015 sees the two teams face off in the middle game of the group. Could this be a sign China’s unlucky streak is about to end? If they qualify for the knock out stage it will be the first time since 2004 when they hosted the tournament.