Two of this, two of that!

Sportstar - - GROUP C - ANIRUDH VELAMURI

Of the six groups at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, Group C looks the most with­out any com­pli­ca­tions. China PR and Korea Repub­lic, two Asian foot­ball pow­er­houses, have been clubbed with Philippines and Kyr­gyz Repub­lic, who will be mak­ing their de­buts.

The 2015 fi­nal­ist Korea, the first team in the group to qual­ify for the tour­na­ment, will be on the hunt for its first ti­tle since 1960 while twice run­ner­up China, whose re­cent record in the com­pe­ti­tion doesn’t read well, should have enough fire­power to get past the debu­tants.

Korea qual­i­fied for the fi­nals by win­ning its group in the sec­ond round of World Cupcum­asian Cup qual­i­fy­ing, win­ning all eight games and scor­ing 27 times with­out con­ced­ing a sin­gle goal. China fin­ished sec­ond in its group and qual­i­fied as the fourth best run­ner­up. Kyr­gyzs­tan was run­ner­up in its qual­i­fi­ca­tion group, los­ing the top spot to In­dia on head­to­head away goals scored, while Philippines went un­de­feated in its group and fin­ished on top.

Korea had a dis­ap­point­ing World Cup, los­ing its first two games be­fore record­ing a mem­o­rable 2­0 win against the de­fend­ing cham­pion Ger­many. Since then, it has played six friendly games, win­ning three — in­clud­ing one against Uruguay — and los­ing none. It has one friendly, with Saudi Ara­bia in Abu Dhabi, lined up be­fore its Asian Cup cam­paign. Son He­ung­min, Asia’s most ex­pen­sive ex­port at €30 mil­lion, will be its stand­out player. While he did guide Korea to an Asian Games medal, he will be hop­ing to do bet­ter and take his coun­try to a first do­mes­tic ti­tle since 1960 — and make up for los­ing to Aus­tralia in the 2015 fi­nal.

China goes into the AFC Cup on the back of an unin­spir­ing run of games. It has played five friendlies in the last two months and man­aged to win just one.

It will wrap up its prepa­ra­tion for the tour­na­ment with friendlies against Iran and Jor­dan, in Doha. Striker Wu Lei will be China’s main source for goals. The for­ward, who is set to make his sec­ond ap­pear­ance in the com­pe­ti­tion, plies his trade with Shang­

AFP

Leader of the pack: South Korea’s Son He­ung­min (No. 13) is the dy­namo of the team.

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