2019 AFC Asian Cup - Australia tipped to go back to back in the UAE

Socceroos have a strong squad that can go all the way
2019 AFC Asian Cup Outright Winner Prediction
Australia claimed their first AFC Asian Cup trophy in 2015 and are tipped to go back to back in 2019 (Getty Images)

2019 AFC Asian Cup Outright Winner Prediction


The 2019 AFC Asian Cup kicks off on 5 January in the UAE where the top 24 nations in Asia will attempt to win the 17th edition of the prestigious tournament. Australia have a deep and talented squad and I expect Graham Arnold’s men to go all the way at odds of 7.00, confirming their status as the best footballing nation in Asia.

Australia AFC Asian Cup History


Australia joined the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 2007, contesting their first tournament that year which was held in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. A 4-0 win against Thailand secured a spot in the quarter-finals where the Socceroos fell to Japan in a penalty shootout.

Australia topped Group C at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar before beating Iraq and Uzbekistan in the knockout rounds, setting up a meeting against Japan in the final. Despite lining up with Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill in attack, the match was tied 0-0 after 90 minutes with Japan taking the lead in extra time, a 1-0 win securing a fourth AFC Asian Cup title for the Blue Samurai.

Australia hosted the AFC Asian Cup in 2015, defeating Kuwait 4-1 and Oman 4-0 to secure an early place in the quarter-finals. Two 2-0 wins against China PR and United Arab Emirates in the knockout rounds saw the Socceroos take on South Korea in the final.

Ange Postecoglou’s side thought they had won it with Massimo Luongo’s 45th minute strike, only for Son Heung-min to equalise in the final minutes to take the match to extra time. However, substitute James Troisi scored in a historic moment for Australia who lifted the AFC Asian Cup in their third attempt.

James Troisi's winning goal in 2015 was a historic moment for Australia in the AFC Asian Cup (Getty Images)

Australia’s rebuilding phase on track


The Socceroos are beginning a new phase without captain Mile Jedinak and Tim Cahill who both retired after the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Australia couldn’t get out of the group stage in Russia after a 2-1 loss against champions France, a 1-1 draw against Denmark and a disappointing 2-0 defeat against Peru.

The World Cup campaign was presided over by Dutch manager Bert van Marwijk who was replaced by Graham Arnold following the tournament. Arnold previously managed Australia between 2006-2007 before winning two A-League titles with the Central Coast Mariners (2012-13) and Sydney FC (2016-17).

Manager Graham Arnold has the experience and confidence required to guide Australia to victory at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup (Getty Images)

The 55-year-old would have learned a lot in those 11 years and has gained a vast amount of experience. Arnold has presided over three international friendlies since taking over, the first a 4-0 win against Kuwait which saw striker Apostolos Giannou score his first international goal and Awer Mabil score on his Australian debut. 

A tough match against South Korea followed with an added time Massimo Luongo goal required to secure a 1-1 draw in Brisbane. Australia’s last match was a comfortable 3-0 win against Lebanon in Sydney, winger Martin Boyle marking his second international appearance with two goals and an assist.

Australia's 2019 AFC Asian Cup Squad


Goalkeeper

The goalkeeper position is clear with Mathew Ryan Australia’s number one for the past five years and having a strong season for English Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion. Mitchell Langerak, Brad Jones and Danny Vukovic compete for backup spots in the UAE.

Australia's #1 goalkeeper is Mathew Ryan who is in good form for Brighton in the EPL (Getty Images)

Defence

The left full-back position should be occupied by Aziz Behich with Alex Gersbach also an option. At right-back we could see Sydney FC’s Rhyan Grant or Western Sydney Wanderers’ Josh Risdon who have time to impress in the A-League.

In central defence Milos Degenek is expected to partner Trent Sainsbury. Degenek has been in great form for Red Star Belgrade and Sainsbury has been given the captain’s armband after being an important player for the Socceroos in recent years.

Millwall’s James Meredith and Al-Ittihad Jeddah’s Matthew Jurman offer alternatives in the heart of Australia’s defence. Mark Milligan can play as a centre-back or a central midfielder, he isn’t getting any younger but Milligan’s experience and leadership will be invaluable in the UAE.

Milos Degenek, Trent Sainsbury and Mathew Ryan form a formidable backline for Australia (Getty Images)

Midfield

Australia have tremendous depth in midfield with Jackson Irvine becoming an integral member of the team since 2016.  is one of the classiest attacking midfielders Australia has produced and continually shows it for Celtic in the Scottish Premiership. Rogic will be desperate to play a big role after missing out in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup triumph.

Aaron Mooy has been tremendous for Australia but the Huddersfield Town midfielder Aaron Mooy has been ruled out until February with a knee injury. His void could be filled by a number of players including Massimo Luongo, James Troisi or Terry Antonis.

Other midfielders that are in contention for a spot in Australia's 2019 AFC Asian Cup squad are James Jeggo, Dimitri Petratos, Mustafa Amini, Josh Brillante, Brandon O’Neill and Daniel De Silva.

Australia's Tom Rogic expected to lead Australia to victory at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup (Getty Images)

Attack

Daniel Arzani’s unfortunate injury rules the youngster out but Australia still have a range of top quality attackers at their disposal. Apostolos Giannou, Awer Mabil and Martin Boyle recently scored their first goals for Australia and are in contention.

Robbie Kruse is always an option and Mathew Leckie is a certainty after hitting top form for Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga. Leckie scored their third goal in the 3-0 friendly win against Lebanon and will be an important player in the UAE.

Andrew Nabbout is an option up front for the Socceroos as is Jamie Maclaren who was unlucky not to see any playing time in Russia.

Mathew Leckie's class and experience will be a huge weapon for Australia at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup (Getty Images)


Australia's 2019 AFC Asian Cup Match Schedule


Australia are top seeds in Group B and will be expected to beat Jordan, Palestine and Syria. The Socceroos take on Jordan at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on 6 January followed by a match against Palestine at the Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium on 11 January. Their last group stage match is against Syria at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium on 15 January.

Check out the full match schedule for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup and the latest betting odds for the tournament. 

Australia's 2019 AFC Asian Cup Squad


Position
Player
D.O.B
Age
Caps
Goals
Club
GKMathew Ryan8 April 199226490England Brighton & Hove Albion
GKMitchell Langerak22 August 19883080Nagoya Grampus
GKDanny Vukovic27 March 19853330Genk
DFMark Milligan (Captain)4 August 198533736Hibernian
DFTrent Sainsbury5 January 199226413PSV Eindoven
DFAziz Behich16 October 199028292PSV Eindoven
DFMilos Degenek28 April 199424190Red Star Belgrade
DFJosh Risdon27 July 199226130Western Sydney Wanderers
DFAlex Gersbach8 May 19972150Rosenborg
DFMatthew Jurman8 December 19892950Al-Ittihad
DFRhyan Grant26 February 19912710Sydney FC
MFTom Rogic16 December 199226428Celtic
MFMassimo Luongo25 September 199226376Queens Park Rangers
MFJackson Irvine7 March 199325242Hull City
MFMustafa Amini20 April 19932540Aarhus Gymnastikforening
MFJames Jeggo12 February 19922610Austria Wien
FWRobbie Kruse5 October 198830695VfL Bochum
FWMathew Leckie4 February 199127599Hertha BSC
FWJamie Maclaren29 July 19932580Hibernian
FWAndrew Nabbout26 December 19922671Urawa Red Diamonds
FWChris Ikonomidis4 May 19952360Perth Glory
FWAwer Mabil15 September 19952331Midtjylland
FWMartin Boyle25 April 19932522Hibernian

Verdict


Australia are expected to face stiff competition from South Korea, Iran, Japan and Saudi Arabia but have more than enough talent to win the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. With Graham Arnold a much more experienced manager than his first spell in charge, the Socceroos are in a great position to go back to back after their triumph in 2015.

Australia’s spine is arguably the strongest in the tournament starting with goalkeeper Mathew Ryan and central defenders Milos Degenek and Trent Sainsbury. Midfielders Jackson Irvine and Tom Rogic will be able to control matches and provide stability for flair players such as Martin Boyle and Mathew Leckie who should thrive.

Best Bet: Australia 2019 AFC Asian Cup Winners @ 7.00
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Matthew Marshall 21 January 2019

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