Australia and South Korea yesterday talked up their chances of winning their Asian Cup showdown, setting the scene for the biggest clash of the tournament so far.
The two teams seen as potential tournament winners meet at the Al Gharafa Stadium tonight in a game that could decide who wins Group C. Australia beat India 4-0 in their opening match while the Koreans earned a 2-1 victory over Bahrain.
Cho Kwang-rae, the Korea coach, said his team had studied Australia and believes they know how to beat them. "Korea and Australia both won their first games and I think it will be difficult for us," he said.
"But one thing for sure is that all 23 of my players have a good understanding of how they should approach the game. That is the strength that we have.
"Australia are highly organised in the defensive aspect of their game and when they attack they change the ball from right to left and left to right a lot. They have players who can deliver the ball and cross very well. But we have the strength to counter this and I think my players will be able to cope."
Both teams feature top-quality players, with Manchester United's Park Ji-sung and Bolton Wanderers's Lee Chung-yong the stand-outs for Korea. Australia will be looking for more heroics from Everton man Tim Cahill and Harry Kewell, who plays for the Turkish side Galatasaray.
Holger Osieck, Australia's German coach, was reluctant to give away too much about his tactics at his pre-match press conference, but conceded South Korea are formidable opponents.
"It is no secret that the Korean team is a very, very high hurdle," he said. "We know about individuals in their team and their quality. We have our plan already."
Meanwhile, India's coach, Bob Houghton, believes captain Baichung Bhutia is worthy of comparison with the cricketing hero Sachin Tendulkar. Bhutia is sidelined with a calf injury but Houghton, whose side meet Bahrain today, said the 34-year-old striker's mere presence was a huge boost for his squad. "I'm sure that comparison goes over the heads of a lot of people here who don't know about cricket," Houghton said.
"But the best cricketer in the world at the moment is Indian and also a very fine role model. The comparison with Baichung is similar."