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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 January 2019

2019 Asian Cup Group A: Teams, fixtures and key players

A breakdown of the teams in Group A – Bahrain, Thailand, India and hosts UAE – and what we can expect from each at the January 5-February 1 tournament

Omar Abdulrahman, centre, is the UAE's chief creative fulcrum and his service to Ahmed Khalil, left, and Ali Mabkhout, right, will be missed at the Asian Cup. Getty Images
Omar Abdulrahman, centre, is the UAE's chief creative fulcrum and his service to Ahmed Khalil, left, and Ali Mabkhout, right, will be missed at the Asian Cup. Getty Images

UAE

Fifa world ranking: 79

Ranking in Asia: 8

Previous Asian Cups: 9

Best performance: Runners-up (1996)

2015 Asian Cup: Third place

Nickname: The Whites

Manager: Alberto Zaccheroni

Captain: Majed Naser

Player to watch: Ahmed Khalil

Fixtures: January 5 v Bahrain (Abu Dhabi); January 10 v India (Abu Dhabi); January 14 v Thailand (Al Ain)

Alberto Zaccheroni knows what it takes to win an Asian Cup but if he is to succeed with the UAE as he did with Japan in 2011, the Italian will have to do it without one of the host nation's outstanding talent.

Omar Abdulrahman's delightful touch helped drive his country to third place in Australia four years ago but a knee injury sustained playing club football means the playmaker will be sidelined for the tournament.

Zaccheroni, though, has always been known for his tactical creativity - he had Japan playing a 4-2-3-1 formation in 2011 - and any squad led by the former AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus manager can be relied upon to play attacking football.

Bahrain's Czech coach Miroslav Soukup. AFP
Bahrain's Czech coach Miroslav Soukup. AFP

Bahrain

Fifa world ranking: 113

Ranking in Asia: 20

Previous Asian Cups: 5

Best performance: Fourth place (2004)

2015 Asian Cup: Group stage

Nickname: The Red

Manager: Miroslav Soukup

Captain: Sayed Mohamed Jaffer

Player to watch: Ali Madan

Fixtures: January 5 v UAE (Abu Dhabi); January 10 v Thailand (Dubai); January 14 v India (Sharjah)

Bahrain are appearing at a fifth consecutive Asian Cup but Miroslav Soukup's side will be hard pushed to emulate the achievements of their more illustrious predecessors despite their relatively straight forward progress to the finals.

The country reached the semi-finals in 2004 before narrowly missing out on qualifying for the World Cup finals in both 2006 and 2010.

The talent in the current squad falls short of those levels, however, and Bahrain are unlikely to be among the challengers at the business end of the tournament.

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Thailand's Chanathip Songkrasin (18) is a key player for his national team. AFP
Thailand's Chanathip Songkrasin (18) is a key player for his national team. AFP

Thailand

Fifa world ranking: 118

Ranking in Asia: 22

Previous Asian Cups: 6

Best performance: Third place (1972)

2015 Asian Cup: Did not qualify

Nickname: War Elephants

Manager: Milovan Rajevac

Captain: Kawin Thamsatchanan

Player to watch: Chanathip Songkrasin

Fixtures: January 6 v India (Dubai); January 10 v Bahrain (Abu Dhabi); January 14 v UAE (Dubai)

Milovan Rajevac takes Thailand to their first Asian Cup finals in more than a decade hoping to change results for a country whose passion for football has long outstripped their performance at continental level.

Thailand have dominated the game in Southeast Asia since they last appeared at the Asian Cup in 2007, winning the regional championship twice only to continue to fall short of climbing onto the continent's upper tier.

While they have been unable to challenge leading nations such as Japan and South Korea, Rajevac is confident his team can make their mark in the UAE.

India striker Sunil Chhetri. AP Photo
India striker Sunil Chhetri. AP Photo

India

Fifa world ranking: 97

Ranking in Asia: 15

Previous Asian Cups: 3

Best performance: Runners-up (1964)

2015 Asian Cup: Did not qualify

Nickname: Blue Tigers

Manager: Stephen Constantine

Captain: Sunil Chhetri

Player to watch: Udanta Singh

Fixtures: January 6 v Thailand (Abu Dhabi); January 10 v UAE (Abu Dhabi); January 14 v Bahrain (Sharjah)

India are hoping to use their Asian Cup participation as a building block to realise their 2026 World Cup qualification dream but doubts linger over their preparation as they return to next month's continental showpiece in the UAE.

Cricket-loving India has a population of 1.3 billion but is a massive underachiever as far as football is concerned.

India's fourth participation in the Asian Cup should be looked as a precursor to their goal of achieving a berth in the World Cup for the first time by 2026, according to All India Football Federation president Praful Patel.

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Updated: January 1, 2019 10:37 AM

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