Ahead of the semi-finals of the 2015 Asian Cup, Sport360 rounded up Dubai-based fans from the four competing countries to give their assessment on their nation’s hopes of making the final.
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Taehwan Kim, South Korea
Where are you from: Seoul
Where do you live: Jumeirah Lake Towers
Occupation: Head chef at K-POP Korean restaurant
South Korea’s story so far
I have found our matches very frustrating to watch and I am very angry with the performances. It was a great achievement to beat Kuwait, Oman and hosts Australia in the group matches, but instead of feeling happy, myself and my friends were more relieved to win after our awful form prior to the tournament.
Our veteran players Koo Ja-cheol and Lee Chung-yong are home injured and for us to cause any further upsets at the Asian Cup, they would have to be fit. We have got lucky to get this far and I would like us to develop a more attacking style.
Our defence has been great and we have not conceded for over six hours of play but football cannot be won without goals. I believe that the score line was deceiving against Uzbekistan as their goalkeeper was not that troubled for most of the match. Although we won, we did not play well and will have to improve a lot if we are to challenge Iraq and be a lot less lazy.
Player to watch: Cha Du-Ri
Likely South Korea XI: Jin-Hyeon Kim Chang-Soo Kim, Jin-Su Kim, Tae-Hwi Kwak, Joo-Ho Park, Young-Gwon Kim, Tae-Hee Nam, Seung-Yong Ki, Heung-Min Son, Cha Du-Ri, Keun-Ho Lee,
Prediction: We will lose to Iraq after starting slowly – they should not have a problem scoring,
Where to watch: K-POP in JLT has all the games and there are a group of us Koreans that watch the matches together. The Iraq game will be fun.
Fady Hesham Mohammed, Iraq
Where are you from: Baghdad
Where do you live: Deira
Iraq’s story so far
I genuinely believed Iraq would have it in them to get to the semis, and my optimism has been rewarded!
A thrilling win over Iran was hardly expected, but I am very confident in this Iraq side and the belief of the team is sky high right now. I called my cousin who lives in Iraq, and he told me that the people there are still celebrating. The whole country is joyful because of the team’s achievement so far and I am so proud of these men.
South Korea are up next, and we are so thrilled to get this far in the tournament that a positive result is a bonus.
They (South Korea) beat Uzbekistan in extra time and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy for a reason. I am expecting a very intense match between these two sides, but I will be behind this amazing national team no matter what.
Likely Iraq XI: Hassan; Ibrahim, Shaker, Salem, Ismail; Saad Abdul-Amir, Tariq, Yasin, Amjad Kalaf; Younis Mahmoud, Alaa Abdul-Zahra
Player to watch: Saad Abdul-Amir
Prediction: I see this one heading into extra time again, but with Iraq’s determination it is possible to emerge from this game victorious. Iraq to win on penalties.
Where to watch: Nine Ball Cafe, Al Qusais.
Darragh Duggan, Australia
Where are you from: Perth
Where do you live: Jumeirah
Occupation: Sales representative for an engineering company.
Australia’s story so far
The Asian Cup was a competition that we entered with much optimism. As the host nation, there was always going to be huge expectation on the players to deliver and this crop has dealt with it very well.
The defeat to South Korea raised a number of questions about the Socceroos’ overreliance on Tim Cahill and how we try to channel the ball through him too much, but when he’s on form he’s unstoppable.
Watching UAE beat Japan, I can see how the semi-final will present a challenge for us. All the talk has been about Ali Mabkhout and Omar Abdulrahman – two very talented players – but this will be the first time in the competition that they’ll meet such a powerful defence.
Player to watch: Tim Cahill
Likely Australia XI: Ryan, Franjic, Davidson, Sainsbury, Wilkinson, Jedinak, Luongo, Bresciano, Cahill, Leckie, Kruse
Prediction: At such a vital stage of the competition, anything can happen on the day. Saying that, I still expect Australia to win 2-0.
Where to watch: Bidi Bondi, Palm Jumeirah Dubai.
Saif Ali Hamdan, UAE
Where are you from:Sharjah
Where do you live: Sharjah
UAE’s story so far
It has been an incredible journey so far, but I expected nothing else from this team. In our stunning penalty shootout win over reigning champions Japan, we showed the determination and grit that I always believed Mahdi Ali’s team had in them.
They made this nation proud. Beating a team like Japan is a huge achievement for us and I am ecstatic.
Next up is Australia and I say, ‘bring it on!’ If we can beat Japan, why can’t we beat Australia? I have high hopes for the next match and a win is very possible.
Player to watch: Ali Mabkhout
Likely UAE XI: Nasser; M. Ahmed, Al Kamali, Salem, Sanqour; Al Hammadi, Fardan, A. Abdulrahman, O. Abdulrahman; Khalil, Mabkhout
Prediction: A narrow 1-0 win for the UAE. Yes, I am that confident!
Where to watch: The Huddle Sports Bar, Al Barsha.