Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Champs Japan without key defender for Asian Cup

Published:Tuesday | January 6, 2015 | 12:00 AMSYDNEY (AP):

The Asian Cup will be part of a rapid getting-to-know-you phase for the bulk of teams and their coaches in Australia, adding an extra layer of difficulty - and intrigue - to the continental championship.

There are plenty of new players for the quadrennial tournament starting on Friday and more new faces in the coaching ranks - only six of the 16 teams had the same coach at the end of 2014 that they started the year with.

Defending champions Japan arrived over the weekend missing one of their stars - and with a new coach.

Defender Atsuto Uchida, who has not fully recovered from a tendon injury in his right knee, will remain with his German Bundesliga club Schalke 04 for treatment, coach Javier Aguirre said. Uchida, who has 71 caps, was a member of the team that beat Australia in the 2011 Asian Cup final.

Aguirre was hired in August to replace Alberto Zaccheroni after Japan's poor World Cup campaign in Brazil last summer.

The Japanese begin their title defence against the Palestinian team in Newcastle on January 12, three days after the tournament opener between Australia and Kuwait in Melbourne.

South Korea also has a new coach, former Germany and Real Madrid midfielder, Uli Stielike, who replaced Hong Myung-bo in September after a similarly disappointing World Cup performance. He'll be attempting to bring the continental trophy back to South Korea for the first time since 1960.

South Korea arrived in Australia with six European-based players for the tournament, but there was no place for former Arsenal striker Park Chu-young. Park, who left Arsenal early in 2014 and fared poorly at the World Cup, recently joined Al Shabab of Saudi Arabia.

The South Korean squad includes Son Heung-min of Bayer Leverkusen, one of four players from the Bundesliga and midfielder Ki Seung-yeung of Swansea City in the English Premier League.

Performances in last month's Gulf Cup also resulted in Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain all firing their coaches.

Bahrain's coach had the shortest tenure of them all. Adnan Hamad, one of Asia's most experienced coaches, was appointed in August only to be fired three months later after his team failed to advance to the knockout stages of the Gulf Cup.

Kuwait started the Gulf Cup in promising fashion but fired Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira following a loss to Oman. Vieira, who led Iraq to the 2007 Asian Cup title, was replaced by former Tunisia midfielder Nabil Maaloul.

Saudi Arabia has changed coaches more than 20 times since reaching the second round of the 1994 World Cup. At nearly two years, Juan Lopez Caro lasted longer than most, but was let go after losing the final of the Gulf Cup in Riyadh to Qatar. Romanian Cosmin Olaroiu, formerly in charge of United Arab Emirates club Al Ahli, took over as the new Saudi coach.

Iraq also fired their coach, Hakeem Shaker, following a last-place finish in their group at the Gulf Cup and replaced him with former national player Radhi Shenaishil.

Host Australia is still getting used to their new coach, too. Since Ange Postecoglou was hired in October 2013, the Socceroos were knocked out in the group stage of the World Cup and have won only once in their last 10 matches.

Postecoglou included 16 of the 23 players he took to the World Cup in his final 23-man squad for the Asian Cup. Seven of the players took part in the last Asian Cup in 2011, including Tim Cahill, captain Mile Jedinak, Robbie Kruse and Tommy Oar.