Socceroos' group opponents ramp up preparations

While the Socceroos have begun arriving in Melbourne ahead of the Asian Cup, their opponents in the tournament opener, Kuwait, have commenced their own training camp in Canberra.

The Kuwaitis have based themselves at the Australian Institute of Sport ahead of their clash with the Socceroos on January 9 at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium. 

The current world No.124 beat Australia on home soil when they claimed a 1-0 win in the nation's capital in an Asian Cup qualifier. 

Although the match was some five years ago and against a Socceroos side missing many of their stars, Kuwait were able to back up the performance by claiming a draw on home soil in the return leg the following year.

Kuwait midfielder Aziz Mashaan is under no illusions the task ahead is a different proposition to 2009 but is confident his country will prove to be a worthy opponent.

"It's totally different to the last match and the Australian team is much stronger than before," he told Fairfax Media.

"Everyone knows we played twice with the Australian team and they never beat us, but I think the pressure will be more on them because it's the opening match and the fans will be behind them.

"We'll have nothing to lose in the opening match and we'll do all the best to get a result."

Coach Nabil Maaloul will keep his side in Canberra until New Year's Eve before flying to the Gold Coast for a friendly match against the UAE on January 3.

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In other Group A news, Paul Le Guen has finalised his 23-man Omani squad for January's tournament, which will also be based at the AIS.

The side will no doubt rely on the exploits of former Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi and will also be full of confidence having gone unbeaten in their last three matches at the Gulf Cup of Nations.

Meanwhile Korea Republic coach Uli Stielike has also commenced preparations with his squad ahead of their opening match against the Omanis.

The world No.69 will be making a record-equalling 13th appearance at the Asian Cup and will be looking to improve on their third place finish in 2011.

The South Koreans have not lifted the trophy since going back-to-back in the first two editions of the tournament in 1956 and 1960.

They will play Saudi Arabia in a pre-tournament hit-out on January 4 at Parramatta Stadium.

2015 AFC Asian Cup Australia Group A Match Schedule

9 January 2015, 7:30pm AEDT, Australia v Kuwait, Melbourne Rectangular Stadium

10 January 2015, 4:00pm AEDT, Korea Republic v Oman, Canberra Stadium

13 January 2015, 6:00pm AEDT, Kuwait v Korea Republic, Canberra Stadium

13 January 2015, 8:00pm AEDT, Oman v Australia, Stadium Australia

17 January 2015, 8.00pm AEDT, Australia v Korea Republic, Brisbane Stadium

17 January 2015, 8.00pm AEDT, Oman v Kuwait, Newcastle Stadium

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