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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 23 January 2019

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

A breakdown of the teams in Group E – Lebanon, North Korea, Qatar and Saudi Arabia – and what we can expect from each at the January 5-February 1 tournament

Lebanon will be led by Hassan Maatouk, left, who will also be their star man during the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE. AFP
Lebanon will be led by Hassan Maatouk, left, who will also be their star man during the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE. AFP

Lebanon

Fifa world ranking: 81

Ranking in Asia: 9

Previous Asian Cups: 1

Best Asian Cup performance: Group stage (2000)

Nickname: The Cedars

Manager: Miodrag Radulovic

Captain: Hassan Maatouk

Player to watch: Hassan Maatouk

Fixtures: January 9 v Qatar (Al Ain); January 12 v Saudi Arabia (Dubai); January 17 v North Korea (Sharjah)

Lebanon return to the finals for the first time since hosting the tournament in 2000 as the west Asian nation navigated their way through qualifying for the first time.

The Lebanese face a major challenge to advance to the next phase but have pulled off surprise results before, defeating South Korea on their way to the final phase of Asia's qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup.

Forward Jong Il-Gwan, right, will be North Korea's player to watch at the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE. Toshifumi Kitamura / AFP
Forward Jong Il-Gwan, right, will be North Korea's player to watch at the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE. Toshifumi Kitamura / AFP

North Korea

Fifa world ranking: 109

Ranking in Asia: 18

Previous Asian Cups: 4

Best Asian Cup performance: Fourth place (1980)

2015 Asian Cup: Group stage

Nickname: Chollima

Manager: Kim Yong-jun

Captain: Ri Myong-guk

Player to watch: Jong Il-gwan

Fixtures: January 8 v Saudi Arabia (Dubai); January 14 v Qatar (Al Ain); January 17 v Lebanon (Sharjah)

North Korea qualified for the Asian Cup under Jorn Andersen, only for the former Norway striker to stand down from his role due to difficulties brought on by sanctions imposed on the state.

He has been replaced by Kim Yong-jun, who was a member of the North Korea squad at the 2010 World Cup finals.

Kim leads a squad featuring players from the domestic league, those based overseas such a promising teenager Han Kwang-song - currently with Italy's Perugia - and several born in Japan, giving North Korea an unpredictable feel.

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Qatar supporters will hope for a strong performance from Abdulkarim Hassan Fadlalla. Karim Jaafar / AFP
Qatar supporters will hope for a strong performance from Abdulkarim Hassan Fadlalla. Karim Jaafar / AFP

Qatar

Fifa world ranking: 93

Ranking in Asia: 13

Previous Asian Cups: 9

Best Asian Cup performance: Quarter-finals (2000, 2011)

2015 Asian Cup: Group stage

Nickname: The Maroons

Manager: Felix Sanchez Bas

Captain: Hassan Al Haydos

Player to watch: Abdulkarim Hassan

Fixtures: January 9 v Lebanon (Al Ain); January 13 v North Korea (Al Ain); January 17 v Saudi Arabia (Abu Dhabi)

Qatar arrive in the UAE for their 10th Asian Cup on the back of some strong results in international friendlies and hoping to make an impression on the football community ahead of their first World Cup appearance in 2022 as hosts.

The tournament will be Qatar's last before the 2022 World Cup and the Arab state will look to better their best-ever Asian Cup show of reaching the quarter-finals.

Felix Sanchez's men would hope to advance deep in the tournament, having been boosted by two stellar performances in recent international friendlies against Switzerland and Iceland.

Saudi Arabia manager Juan Antonio Pizzi, centre, extended his contract to be in charge of the team during the 2019 Asian Cup. EPA
Saudi Arabia manager Juan Antonio Pizzi, centre, extended his contract to be in charge of the team during the 2019 Asian Cup. EPA

Saudi Arabia

Fifa world ranking: 69

Ranking in Asia: 5

Previous Asian Cups: 9

Best Asian Cup performance: Champions (1984, 1988, 1996)

2015 Asian Cup: Group stage

Nickname: Green Falcons

Manager: Juan Antonio Pizzi

Player to watch: Fahad Al Muwallad

Fixtures: January 8 v North Korea (Dubai); January 12 v Lebanon (Dubai); January 17 v Qatar (Abu Dhabi)

Saudi Arabia's early exit from this year's World Cup was not a huge surprise given their recent pedigree on the global stage, but at the Asian Cup their fans have reason to expect much, much better.

The Green Falcons were once a dominant force in Asian football and reached the final in six of seven tournaments from 1984 to 2007, winning the continental title three times including back-to-back triumphs in 1984 and 1988.

The days when they were one of the major powers in the region are a fading memory now, though, and in the last two versions of the Asian Cup they have failed to progress from their group.

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Updated: January 1, 2019 10:37 AM

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