With less than a week left for the 2019 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup to get underway, the continent’s 24 best teams are set to descend in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The 17th edition of the continental competition sees the participating teams drawn into six groups of four teams each.
Here, Goal takes a look at Group C comprising of heavyweights South Korea, China, Kyrgyzstan and Philippines.
With a FIFA rank of 76, China can be considered as one of the outside favourites for the AFC Asian Cup.
The Chinese have never been able to win the tournament but were finalists back in 1984 and then in 2004. They have failed to get past the quarterfinals ever since.
In the 2015 edition, China were eliminated in the quarterfinals after a 2-0 defeat to eventual champions Australia.
China qualified for the 2019 Asian Cup as one of the best second-placed teams in the second round of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
As part of their Asian Cup preparations, China played friendlies against the likes of Qatar, Bahrain, India, Syria, Palestine, Iraq and Jordan, facing defeat only against Qatar and Iraq.
Key Players: Wu Lei, Yang Xu
Asia’s best team at the 2018 World Cup, South Korea will be very optimistic about their chances in the Asian Cup. They defeated the then defending Champions of the World Cup six months back.
The Koreans never tasted victory in the Asian Cup after the consecutive titles in 1956 and 1960. However, they ensured a top three finish in each of the last three editions, losing to Australia in the finals in 2015.
Qualification for the 2018 World Cup automatically guaranteed them a spot in the 2019 Asian Cup.
South Korea defeated Costa Rica and Uruguay in friendlies after the World Cup and drew against teams like Chile and Australia.
After their 1-2 defeat to Mexico in the group stages of the World Cup, South Korea have ensured a seven-game unbeaten streak and will be entering the tournament as strong favourites.
Key Players: Heung-min Son, Nam Tae-Hee
In a country famous for wrestling and traditional archery, football was never a strong suit until 2010.
Some revolutionary managerial developments brought about by the likes of Sergey Dvoryankov was further strengthened by Aleksandr Krestinin. This helped the team qualify for the Asian Cup. This will be Kyrgyzstan’s maiden appearance in the tournament.
In the third round of qualifiers, Kyrgyzstan were grouped alongside India, Myanmar and Macau. They qualified as runners-up after thrashing Macau 5-1.
As part of their Asian Cup preparations, Kyrgyzstan went up against teams like Qatar and Japan, losing to the former by just one goal. They also defeated higher-ranked Jordan and will be confident heading into the tournament.
Key Player: Anton Zemlianukhin
In Philippines, Asia Cup 2019 have yet another tournament debutant. The minnows of the group have a tough task ahead of them as they attempt to progress to the knockouts.
The Philippines National Team advanced to the knockouts of the 2010 AFF Championship before being eliminated by Indonesia. However, this was seen as one of their biggest achievements in recent times.
In the 2018 AFF Championship, Philippines qualified to the knockouts after remaining undefeated throughout the group stage. Vietnam eliminated them with a 4-2 aggregate win in the semi-finals.
Philippines topped the group which included Yemen, Tajikistan and Nepal in the third round of the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers to make history.
Key Player: Phil Younghusband, Neil Etheridge