Former Socceroo coach Pim Verbeek says the Asian Cup's timing and a raft of new coaches makes it a tough competition to predict when it kicks off in January 2015.
Speaking with the official Asian Cup website (www.afcasiancup.com) the Dutchman reflected on his time in charge of Korea Republic and Australia.
He believed the cycles of national team squads and planning for World Cup qualification later in the year will come into coaches' thinking when they approach the Asian Cup.
“The timing of the AFC Asian Cup always means it’s an interesting competition; of course, it’s a major tournament because it is the continental championship of Asia and everyone wants to win, but its place in the schedule also means it presents coaches with a dilemma,” he wrote.
“Coming so soon after the FIFA World Cup finals, coaches and federations have to decide if they want to commit to trying to win the title as a priority, or whether the AFC Asian Cup represents the first serious stage in the rebuilding process that culminates with the next World Cup. It’s a decision that has to be taken by collectively.
“One of the criticisms in Australia in 2011 was that Holger Osieck took more or less the same team to Qatar that played at the World Cup and there were not enough young players, but it depends on your goal.
“Do you use the Asian Cup as preparation, or do you go there to win the trophy?
“The same year, the Japanese took some young players and used the tournament as a way to build up the team. But that’s what they always try to do, and it worked well for them because they also won the tournament.
“As a coach, it’s a difficult decision. You want to win the Asian Cup, especially if you are working with one of the bigger countries.
“But five months later the qualifying rounds for the World Cup start. What do you do? And are the players who play at the Asian Cup good enough to qualify you for the World Cup, and then are they good enough to play at the World Cup?
“Either way, the Asian Cup is always a really fascinating competition and 2015 should be no exception. Australia’s a big country and the games will be spread out across the entire east coast, but I know everything will be very well organised.
“The facilities will be great and the coverage will be very good and it will be an exciting tournament, I’m sure.
“We saw that, too, in Qatar in 2011. In fact, Qatar was a great tournament because everything was in and around Doha, and that allowed the excitement to build up really well.
“As a coach it’s always difficult to build a new team. I took a young team with me to the 2007 tournament when I was in charge of Korea Republic, with most of the players were under 23.
“We brought a lot of players who had only experience of playing in the Olympic team. We had lost the likes of Park Ji-sung, who wasn’t able to come, but although we didn’t win the title there were a lot of positives to come out of the competition for Korean football.
“Also, the Asian Cup was played a year after the World Cup, so it allowed coaches to do things differently. Now, the schedule has changed and it has maybe made things a little bit harder.
“The fact a number of the big teams have changed their coach will also add to the uncertainty and the unpredictability in Australia.
“Korea Republic have a new coach, Uli Stielike, who comes in completely new to football in east Asia; the same goes for Javier Aguirre with Japan.
“Alain Perrin has had a little bit more time with China, but he’s still relatively new as well. How they adapt will have a major impact on how their teams perform in Australia.
“The teams from the Middle East have had a good degree of stability, which is unusual for them, and a lot of the work being done in the United Arab Emirates means they will be a team to watch, while Oman and Saudi Arabia could also cause an upset.
“But, of course, the pressure will be on Australia.
“They are on home soil and the Australian mentality is that they must win, and with every team now only having one friendly date left to finalise their preparations before the tournament kicks off, it’s still impossible to predict the outcome of what will be a fascinating AFC Asian Cup.”