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When the draw was for the tournament was made in December last year I wrote of a review of the Australia's group and I thought that the Socceroos would top their group ahead of Iraq and I still think that will be the case.
There hasn't been much to tell from the friendlies that has taken place since that time and also sometimes its not good to read too much into friendlies but they can give you a rough guideline on what to expect.
Looking briefly at the other groups, Group B should be one of the most interesting groups. I think Japan should be able to top that group but beyond that its very hard to tell who will join them in the quarter-finals.
Qatar have slowly built up a good domestic league with some veteran players from the European leagues coming to join their teams and that has certainly helped some of the local players. UAE is also a good team with lots of experience and its hard to tell who will progress between the two teams.
Unfortunately the host Vietnam is not that strong and I don't expect them to progress. I could say that for all the hosts and I will be very surprised if any of the hosts can make it to the next round. This may not be very good for the locals but I think it will be helped by having four hosts instead of one.
In Group C, previous hosts and finalists China should fight it out for top position with Iran. I would think that Iran, my favourites to reach the final would beat China who looked less than convincing recently against the Socceroos and also this week against Melbourne Victory despite the 1 nil win.
Finally in group D, on paper Korea Republic should have an edge over the other three countries and Saudi Arabia would to me come a close second. I also think that Bahrain are capable of causing a surprise or two but they will have to play a lot better than they did in qualifying for the tournament if they are thinking of staying beyond the first round.
As the matches are played, I have to remember to enter my tips in
TipsChallenge and see if I can top the league at the end of the tournament.
This tournament is between Japan and Australia more or less. Japan could have an edge because of their experience in the competition but I am disappointed with South Korea.
South Korea reached their peak with Hiddink and after that I don't think they have really managed to put a good side despite now having better players like Park etc. I am keen to see how they go.
Nevertheless, I think the Socceroos will be too strong in their group and should be able to bring the cup home.