The football fan in me doesn’t only get excited every four years when the FIFA World Cup of rolls around. I keep up to date with most major regional tournaments like the Africa Cup of Nations, European Championships and my region’s own CONCACAF Gold Cup – which should start later this year. The 2011 AFC Asian Cup will start this week and are you surprised and who I biasly (not a word) predict will win in? JAPAN!
Japan had an excellent world cup last year, they qualified for the last 16 by beating Cameroon and clobbered Denmark before falling to Paraguay on penalties. The Asian Cup though should be a tournament they can win as they have done it in 1992 (as hosts), 2000, and 2004. Their main rivals are expected to be South Korea, Iran, Australia and Saudi Arabia, but with the way the groups are set up things should go well if they win the matches when they are supposed to.
Japan is in group B with Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia, below are the group stage matches for Group B:
9th January – Japan v. Jordan
9th January – Saudi Arabia v. Syria
13th January – Jordan v. Saudi Arabia
13th January – Syria v. Japan
17th January – Jordan v. Syria
17th January – Saudi Arabia v. Japan
Players to watch
Keisuke Honda has emerged from the World Cup in South Africa as Japan’s best player and it can be argued that Japan has the best midfield in the entire tournament. One of their young strikers Shinji Kagawa seems to have come into form at the right time with his 12 goals in 27 appearances this season helping is club side Borussia Dortmund to sit atop the competitive Bundesliga after 17 games with a 10 point cushion.
Will you be following the 2011 Asian Cup? Who do you think will win? I know I have a few readers from Australia, do you think the Socceroos stand a chance against the Blue Samurai?