Asian Cup: Five Things We Learnt From Group A
1. Korea Republic remain far from convincing
The Koreans, who in some people’s eyes are favourites to go all the way in the tournament revealed a number of chinks in their armour against a Kuwait team that was fearless in the second period.
Uli Stielike’s men took the lead courtesy of some stunning lead-up play from Cha Du-Ri down the right flank just before the interval.
Yet once Al-Azraq decided to throw caution to the wind, the Koreans Oman rode their luck as they did against Oman and were forced to camp inside their own half.
Many contend that three points is paramount over performances at this stage of a competition, but their nervy and uninspiring final 45 minutes would have done little to instil any great fear in the Australians, who they will face on Saturday before their quarter-final hit-out.
2. Kuwait not quite the finished product
It was a game of radically contrasting halves for the men from the Gulf, who have now gone out in straight sets.
A lack of composure, tactical awareness and movement off the ball plagued the Kuwaiti’s in the opening stanza after repeatedly failing to retain possession, while giving Korea too much time on the ball.
Their stirring second half – prompted by their need to secure a point to avoid bowing out made Nabil Maaloul sit up in parts, but it was the lack of a cutting edge in the front third, which proved their downfall.
The 125th ranked team can be proud of their bold and tenacious efforts and although unfortunate to not pick up a point for their endeavours, a results driven game sees them exit at the first hurdle.
3. Oman with no Plan B
Paul Le Guen, commonly recognised as an avid student of the game could only watch on in horror as he saw his usually regimented and organised rear-guard opened up by an unrelenting and racy Australian forward line.
Having made life very difficult for the ‘roos in the previous few outings under the Frenchman, Oman were tipped to offer plenty of resistance and give plenty of headaches for the Australian back four.
Apart from a ten minute spell just after kick-off, they failed to do either and instead fell to pieces after going behind.
The same “fight” that was lauded after Saturday’s match against Korea was absent in Sydney.
He will be hoping for its quick return in order to salvage some pride ahead of their final tussle against their Gulf rivals on the weekend.
4. Ryan fortifying his position
The goalkeepers union is traditionally regarded as a tightknit one. In the case of the Australian ranks, although healthy rivalries are put aside once the team is selected, it is hard to see Postecoglou’s second option, Mitch Langerak getting game time any time soon after what was once again a very sound Mat Ryan in between the sticks.
His crucial saves against Kuwait and last night deserve plenty of merit, particularly when considering the context in which they were made.
He was called into action last night to palm over the bar with his opposite hand a goal-bound blast with the game still deadlocked at 0-0.
A blunder at that stage of the match could have made for a very different story on the night.
Confidence is running high for the Australian custodian, who would have instilled a lot more faith in anyone who had previously had their doubts over their number one.
5. Australia remains true to Ange’s philosophy
Whether the Socceroos would buckle and morph their approach in the face of an Omani roadblock was a question contemplated by some in the lead-up. Their query was soon answered though as the graceful and fluid brand of football was on show for the match’s duration.
They were fierce in their hassling of the Red Warriors and it failed to cease until the final whistle.
The visitors were denied any chance of easing their way back into the encounter and were stifled on and off the ball.
All four goals once again came from different sources, allaying pre-tournament concerns of a Socceroos team who were too heavily reliant on Tim Cahill. A healthy goal difference puts it in pole position to run out as group winners.