Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Asian Cup Team of the Tournament

WITH excitement building ahead of the upcoming A-League season, one last bit of reflection on the Asian Cup, my traditional sign-off to a major competition, the team of the tournament. Of course, I featured a team of the group stage a little earlier, but since then another eight games to mull over, all important, altering the make-up of my final selection.

The Fox Sports team featured their own in the build-up to the final, and it was set out in 4-3-3 formation; Woon-jae; Sukha, Saiwaeo,Yulianto, Denisov; Teymourian, Nashat, Abdulrahman Al Qahtani; Malek, Younis Mahmoud, Yasser Al Qahtani.

Not a bad team at all. Every one of those players had an excellent tournament, and I’m especially pleased to see Saiwaeo in there. Mine is similar, at least in shape, but I just had to honour the best team in the tournament, so there are five Iraqi players in TRBA’s team of the tournament;

----------Nashat---------K Nakamura-----

Lee Woon-jae, keeper, South Korea; old ‘spider-hands’ was a rock throughout, producing save after save, both from general play and the penalty-spot, and providing a steadying influence for his young backline.

Suree Sukha, right back, Thailand; enough said earlier, but great to read his performances earnt him a trial in England. Let’s hope we see more of him soon.

Kang Min-soo, central defender, South Korea; probably the hardest position to choose. Saiwaeo and the two Indonesian stoppers, Maman and Yulianto, were outstanding in the group phase, while Nakazawa was a monster against the Socceroos. But as the tournament went on, the defences that stood out the most were South Korea and Iraq. Not surprisingly, players from those teams get my spots in the heart of the defence. Min-soo was ultimately sent-off for an innocuous challenge against Takahara in the 3rd/4th place play-off, but up until them he was outstanding, covering the ground quickly and dominating in the air. For a 21 year old, did a top job for Pim Veerbek, marshalling the Korean defence.

Jassim Gholam, central defender, Iraq; like Min-soo, grew with the tournament, peaking with outstanding displays in the semi and final. In the semi he shut down Cho Jae-jin, while in the final he was responsible for Yasser Al Qahtani, doing a brilliant job. Combining beautifully with Ali Rehema and Bassim Abbas, there was barely a challenge he didn’t win.

Bassim Abbas, left back, Iraq; like his bald-headed mate Ghloam, one of the characters of the tournament with his ferocious tackling, tight man-marking and extravagant over-heads. Was a monster against the Socceroos, and after a tough contest against Yeom Ki-hun in the semis, was back to his outstanding best in the final, shutting down the dangerous Malek Maaz. It was a tournament of brilliant left backs – Denisov, Ridwan, Zandi and Kamano – but the Al-Nejmeh based Abbas was the standout.

Qusay Munir, defensive central midfielder, Iraq; a peripheral figure in the group stage (he started the first two games on the bench) and suspended for the quarter final win over Vietnam, he burst to life in the final two games, dominating the midfield in both. Against Korea he was the one Iraq midfielder that kept them in the game, while in the final he combined brilliantly with Nashat, buzzing all over the place, breaking up the Saudis at the first hint of a build-up and using the ball intelligently. As influential as any midfielder in the tournament and as responsible as anyone for Iraq’s win, he just had to be in this team. Machine.

Nashat Akram, central midfielder, Iraq; enough has been said on this forum and others about how silky he is, but what impressed me was how he finished the tournament. After a quiet semi, it looked like he could have disappeared towards the end of tournament, but in the final he raised his game, proving he can handle the big occasion. Hope to see him gracing the fields of Europe soon.

Kengo Nakamura, central midfield, Japan; outshone his more illustrious namesake Shunsuke with his all-round play at the heart of the Japan midfield. Strong defensively, he showed surprising forward drive, getting on the end of some action around the penalty box. He just pips Uzbek Server Djeparov who was consistently good in all four games and excellent in the quarters, especially his set-piece delivery. In comparison, Andranik Teymourian had a poor quarter final, while Abdulrahman Al Qahtani had an excellent group phase but was clearly playing injured in the knocks-outs, replaced in all three games. Korean pair Kim Jung-woo and Yeom Ki-hun caught the eye and were unlucky not be make this team.

Malek Maaz, right-sided attacker, Saudi Arabia; a handful throughout the tournament both on the ground and in the air (a huge leap for a little man), he was particularly brilliant in the semi final win over Japan, toying with Yuki Abe both in the air an on the ground. His second was a peach, the best individual goal of the tournament, gliding past Abe and Nakazawa and smashing it past Kawaguchi. Was bottled up by Abbas in the final, but almost grabbed an injury time equaliser.

Younis Mahmoud, central striker, Iraq; a leader in every sense. Remarkable workrate, cunning around the box, strong in the air and decent over the dead ball, he was a handful for every defender he faced. Crowned player of the tournament and joint top scorer, he more than anyone deserved Iraq’s victory.

Yasser Al Qahtani, left sided attacker, Saudi Arabia; like Maaz, ‘The Snipper’ was well looked after in the final, but he was as responsible as anyone for getting the Saudis there. Predatory around the box, he lived up to his nickname, but he was equally as strong when he dropped outside to pick up possession and either play a sublime pass or drive forward. Like Mahmoud, a wonderful leader.

So there you have it, the Asian Cup done and dusted for '07. Hope you enjoyed TRBA’s coverage, if not the Socceroos performances.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great coverage TT - invaluable for someone like me who doesnt have pay.


Wed. Aug. 01, 09:34:00 pm AEST  

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