Coaching changes galore ahead of Asian Cup

Four of the eight teams that started November's Gulf Cup of Nations in Saudi Arabia have shed their coaches since - the Socceroos' opening game opponent included.

Kuwait was, until recently, led by a man well-known to Aussie fans. Jorvan Vieira took Iraq to the 2007 title, along the way inflicting a first ever AFC Asian Cup defeat on the men in the green and gold. 

The Brazilian is not going to get the chance for a double as a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Oman ended Gulf Cup chances and his tenure.

Kuwait wasted little time, there was little to waste, in replacing the wiry South American with Nabil Maaloul on an 18-month contract. 

The former Tunisian international took over El Jaish in the Qatar Stars League in January. The army team don't have a budget to match the likes of Lekhwiya but his ten months were promising, and he lifted the Crown Prince Cup in April.

At the same time, the soldiers came through the play-offs to reach the Asian Champions League first round proper and failed to get to the last sixteen only by virtue of scoring one less goal than Bunyodkor. 

Known for instilling great spirit into his teams and making them hard to beat, it could be that a counter-attacking Kuwait will arrive down under but there is not much time on the pitch or off for the new man to make meaningful changes. The federation back home wants the new man to start thinking about qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

Iraq has fired Hakeem Shaker last month after a nightmarish Gulf Cup ended in last place. In comes Sebastiao Lazaroni, a genial coach who knows the Middle East well though did not impress during his time as coach of his native Brazil at the 1990 World Cup or at the helm of Qatar in 2011.

Saudi Arabia chopping and changing is not a big surprise even if the hotseat in Riyadh has cooled a little in recent years. Reaching the final and losing to a talented Qatar team may not seem like a reason to fire Spanish boss Jose Lopez Caro but then the federation was not completely behind the one-time Real Madrid boss who succeeded Frank Rijkaard in January 2013. 

Results and preparations had been mixed though pulling the trigger not much more than a month ahead of the AFC Asian Cup does seem a little self-defeating.

In the past Nasser Al Johar has been a regular caretaker for the Green Falcons. His five stints in charge have so far, took him to the 2000 and 2011 continental tournaments as well as the 2002 World Cup. Not one to seek the spotlight, the man with one of the most recognisable moustaches in Asian football may have it thrust upon him once again.

Spare a thought for Bahrain. The team that came so close to qualifying for the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups, finished below Yemen in the Gulf Cup and fired Iraqi boss Adnan Hamad, one of the most respected coaches in West Asia (and who left Jordan in 2013, the team is now led by former Manchester United and AC Milan midfielder Ray Wilkins). 

This decision came just three months after Anthony Hudson had jumped ship for New Zealand. Assistant Marjan Eid steps up and has a tough task against Qatar and UAE.

And then there's DPR Korea. The coach has not been fired but Yun Jong Su has been banned by the AFC from entering the dressing room and dugout during the Asian Cup, though the training field is no problem. 

The tactician said a few choice words about the refereeing in the Asian Games final against its southern rival in September. It remains to be seen how the DPRK handles the situation and it makes an open Group B, that much more so. 

The AFC Asian Cup is always a fascinating tournament but the timing of the 2015 version adds extra spice to an already mouth-watering mix. 

The World Cup taking place six months before obviously had an effect but November's Gulf Cup of Nations has blown a few teams off course, or perhaps, back on it. 

This West Asian biennial bash is going to have a major bearing on what unfolds in Australia. The same can be said of all the changes. 

An unpredictable tournament has become a little more so.


**The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not reflect those of Football Federation Australia**