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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 April 2019

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

A breakdown of the teams in Group D – Iran, Iraq, Vietnam and Yemen – and what we can expect from each at the January 5-February 1 tournament

Iran midfielder Masoud Shojaei, centre, during a training session with the national team in Doha, Qatar. AFP
Iran midfielder Masoud Shojaei, centre, during a training session with the national team in Doha, Qatar. AFP

Iran

Fifa world ranking: 29

Ranking in Asia: 1

Previous Asian Cups: 13

Best performance: Champions (1968, 1972, 1976)

2015 Asian Cup: Quarter-finals

Nickname: Team Melli

Manager: Carlos Queiroz

Captain: Masoud Shojaei

Player to watch: Sardar Azmoun

Fixtures: January 7 v Yemen (Abu Dhabi); January 12 v Vietnam (Abu Dhabi); January 16 v Iraq (Dubai)

Turmoil and uncertainty have become the norm around Iran's national team, but Carlos Queiroz will look to push aside the distractions to end the country's 43-year Asian Cup title drought.

Iran last won Asian football's most coveted trophy in 1976, when they completed the third of three consecutive championship wins that mark the country out as one of continent's most successful ever.

But for all their achievements since that last triumph - a resume that includes five World Cup appearances and three gold medals at the Asian Games - the title the football-mad nation hankers after most has continued to prove elusive.

Iraq's Slovenian coach Srecko Katanec, second right, directs his players during a training session at a training camp in Doha. Qatar. AFP
Iraq's Slovenian coach Srecko Katanec, second right, directs his players during a training session at a training camp in Doha. Qatar. AFP

Iraq

Fifa world ranking: 88

Ranking in Asia: 11

Previous Asian Cups: 8

Best performance: Champions (2007)

2015 Asian Cup: Fourth place

Nickname: Lions of Mesopotamia

Manager: Srecko Katanec

Captain: Mohammed Gassid

Player to watch: Bashar Resan

Fixtures: January 8 v Vietnam (Abu Dhabi); January 12 v Yemen (Sharjah); January 16 v Iran (Dubai)

Champions when they defied the odds in 2007, circumstances have scarcely improved for the Lions of Mesopotamia since, with security concerns back home having a major impact on preparations.

They reached the semi-finals in 2015, when they lost to South Korea, but many of the big name players that fired that campaign have since retired.

Slovenian coach Srecko Katanec took over in September but his side have struggled to find the net this year, which might complicate their passage from Group D into the knockout stages.

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Vietnam's Nguyen Quang Hai, left, in action against Malaysia's Syazwan Andik during the AFF Suzuki Cup final on December 15. AFP
Vietnam's Nguyen Quang Hai, left, in action against Malaysia's Syazwan Andik during the AFF Suzuki Cup final on December 15. AFP

Vietnam

Fifa world ranking: 100

Ranking in Asia: 17

Previous Asian Cups: 1

Best performance: Quarter-finals (2007)

2015 Asian Cup: Did not qualify

Nickname: Golden Dragons

Manager: Park Hang-seo

Captain: Que Ngoc Hai

Player to watch: Nguyen Quang Hai

Fixtures: January 8 v Iraq (Abu Dhabi); January 12 v Iran (Abu Dhabi); January 16 v Yemen (Al Ain)

South Korean Park Hang-seo has transformed expectations in Vietnam by taking the Under 23 side to the final of the Asian Cup in January and the semi-finals of the Asian Games tournament in August.

The senior team capped that, and triggered more wild celebrations around the country, when they beat Malaysia over two legs to win the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Championship in December.

Having been drawn in a tough group, they will do well to match their single appearance in the quarter-finals as co-hosts in 2007 but some in Vietnam are starting to believe Park and his players can do anything.

Yemen captain Ala Al Sasi, left, in action against Bahrain at the 2014 Gulf Cup of Nations. AFP
Yemen captain Ala Al Sasi, left, in action against Bahrain at the 2014 Gulf Cup of Nations. AFP

Yemen

FIFA world ranking: 135

Ranking in Asia: 26

Previous Asian Cups: 0

Nickname: The Red Devils

Manager: Jan Kocian

Captain: Ala Al Sasi

Player to watch: Ala Al Sasi

Fixtures: January 7 v Iran (Abu Dhabi); January 12 v Iraq (Sharjah); January 16 v Vietnam (Al Ain)

Yemen make their debut appearance at the Asian Cup in the UAE after qualifying as runners-up from a group won by the Philippines and also featuring Tajikistan and Nepal. The civil war has had a major impact on the team's preparations, with the national side unable to play at home due to the security situation. They have also undergone a coaching change, with Slovakia's Jan Kocian replacing Abraham Mebratu in October.

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Updated: January 1, 2019 10:37 AM

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