With the big powers all having negotiated the expanded Asian Cup group stage safely enough, the tournament gets going in earnest on Sunday with the first of the Round of 16 ties.
Iran’s clash with Oman is the final match on Sunday as the Chinese take on Thailand in Al Ain in the late afternoon after Jordan battle it out with Vietnam in Dubai for the first spot in the quarter-finals.
Vietnam squeaked into the knockout stages by virtue of a better disciplinary record than Lebanon but coach Park Hang Seo has developed something of a Midas touch and another night of celebration in Hanoi is not out of the question.
Football-inspired celebrations in China have been few and far between since they lost the 2004 Asian Cup final to Japan in Beijing and Marcello Lippi’s team stumbled into the last 16 after a 2-0 loss to South Korea.
The Italian World Cup winner confirmed on Saturday that prolific striker Wu Lei would be fit to start after missing the Korea match with a shoulder injury but was wary of the Thais.
The fixtures in the bottom half of the draw start on Monday, with Son Heung Min’s South Korea, arguably the form team of the tournament so far, and the Socceroos looking most likely to meet up in the semi-finals.
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- Oman Will Play Iran with Lots of Motivation: Ashkan DejagahTasnim News Agency (press release)
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- Playing with motivated Oman to be tough: Team Melli captainMehr News Agency - English Version
- Iran's Dejagah says Oman highly motivated in AFC matchesXinhua
- Big guns primed as business end of Asian Cup gets underwayIPPmedia