Asian Cup 2011 Group C Preview: Australia - India, South Korea - Bahrain

Two more heavyweights get their campaign underway as the Asian Cup continues.
Australia and South Korea will be wary of repeating the errors of fellow Asian Cup favourites Japan and Saudi Arabia this evening as they prepare to take on India and Bahrain respectively in Group C.

In a surprising start to Group B action, Japan needed a late equalizer to snatch a point against minnows Jordan while a dishevelled Syria stunned Saudi Arabia, winning 2-1 against the three-time champions, prompting the departure of manager Jose Peseiro.

The Socceroos are heavy favourites against an Indian side who qualified for the tournament via the 2008 Challenge Cup, expected to depart the group stages without a point.

It would be considered a miraculous result if Holger Osieck's side were to drop points in their first match, particularly given the German manager is set to name a full-strength side.

Yet the likes of Tim Cahill, Mark Schwarzer, Harry Kewell and Lucas Neill are veterans of the 2007 Asian Cup and will remember the difficulty with which they emerged from a group that included Oman, Thailand and Iraq.

Four years ago the Socceroos scraped out of the first round after being held to a shock 1-1 draw in their opening match against Oman, though the Indians are considerably weaker opponents.

It's unlikely talisman Bhaichung Bhutia will start this match but Bob Houghton might be able to use his star striker off the bench against Australia as he looks to fashion respectable performance during the group stages.

A rather more closely contested contest will take place between South Korea and Bahrain, with both sides hit by injuries.

Cho Kwang-Rae's Korea lost Park Chu-Young to injury in bizarre circumstnaces before the tournament, while Bahrain will be without key duo Mohamed Salmeen and Hussain Salman, as well as sweating on the fitness of captain Salman Isa.

After a memorable World Cup campaign South Korea will be keen to establish themselves as Asia's top side with victory at the Asian Cup for the first time in 1960.

Captain and Manchester United man Park Ji-Sung said in the build-up that he would retire from international football after the tournament though has recently hinted he may go back on his word.

His performance and that of Bolton Wanderers starlet Lee Chung-Yong could define South Korea's campaign.

Prediction: Australia should account for India fairly comfortably but South Korea could be in for a tricky time against Bahrain, though I'm tipping them to also get off to a winning start.

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