As the buildup to the AFC Asian Cup 2019 continues, FOX Sports Asia looks at each of the six groups in detail. Here, we take a look at Group E which consists of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon and DPR Korea.
January 8: Saudi Arabia v DPR Korea (Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai – 8pm local time)
January 9: Qatar vs Lebanon (Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain – 8pm local time)
January 12: Saudi Arabia v Lebanon (Al-Maktoum Stadium, Dubai– 8pm local time)
January 13: Qatar v DPR Korea (Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain– 3pm local time)
January 17: Saudi Arabia v Qatar (Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi – 8pm local time)
January 17: Lebanon v DPR Korea (Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah – 8pm local time)
FIFA World Ranking: 69
Asian Cup appearances: 10
Road to Qualification: Winners of Group A in the qualification rounds (World Cup 2018 qualification route)
Last 5 games: South Korea (0-0), Jordan (1-1), Yemen (1-0), Iraq (1-1), Brazil (0-2)
Favorites to qualify as group winners, Saudi Arabia will definitely be looking to add to their tally of three AFC Asian Cup titles in this edition of the tournament.
Coming into the tournament on the back of a disappointing World Cup 2018 campaign, coach Juan Antonio Pizzi will see this tournament as an opportunity to set the record straight – especially considering how they crashed out in the group phases last time around.
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais (Al-Ahli), Waleed Abdullah (Al-Nassr), Mohammed Al Yami (Al-Batin)
Defenders: Mohammed Al-Breik (Al-Hilal), Yasir Al-Shahrani (Al-Hilal), Ali Al-Bulaihi (Al Hilal), Mohammed Al-Fatil (Al-Ahli), Hamdan Al Shamrani (Al-Faisaly), Abdulelah Al-Amri (Al-Wahda), Omar Hawsawi (Al-Nassr)
Midfielders: Salman Al-Faraj (Al-Hilal), Abdullah Otayf (Al-Hilal), Salem Al-Dawsari (Al-Hilal), Hussain Al-Mogahwi (Al-Ahli), Ayman Al Khulaif (Al-Ahli), Abdulrahman Ghareeb (Al-Ahli), Ibrahim Ghaleb (Al-Nassr), Yahya Al-Shehri (Al-Nassr), Abdullah Al-Khaibari (Al-Shabab), Hattan Bahebri (Al-Shabab), Abdulaziz Al-Bishi (Al-Faisaly)
Forwards: Fahad Al Muwallad (Al-Ittihad), Mohammed Al-Saiari (Al-Hazem)
Key player: Salem Al-Dawsari
One of the senior players in Saudi Arabia’s squad and also the man who scored the late winner in their 2-1 victory over Egypt in the 2018 World Cup, Al-Dawsari will look to become the talisman for his team at the tournament.
FIFA World Ranking: 93
Asian Cup appearances: 10
Road to Qualification: Winners of Group C in the qualification rounds (World Cup 2018 qualification route)
Last 5 games: Iran (1-2), Algeria (0-1), Kyrgyz Republic (1-0), Jordan (2-0), Iceland (2-2)
Having taken massive steps to improve the footballing situation in their country, Qatar will be looking to go toe-to-toe with Saudi Arabia to win Group E, despite being ranked considerably lower than the Saudis.
Despite coming into the tournament on the back of two successive defeats in their preparatory games, Qatar’s recent form hasn’t been bad – the high point being a 2-2 draw against World Cup dark-horses Iceland.
Goalkeepers: Saad Al Sheeb (Al-Sadd), Yousef Hassan (Al-Gharafa), Mohammed Al-Bakri (Al-Khor)
Defenders: Pedro Correira (Al-Khor), Abdelkarim Hassan (Al-Sadd), Tarek Salman (Al-Sadd), Hamid Ismail (Al-Sadd), Tameem Al-Muhaza (Al-Garafa), Bassam Hisham (Al-Duhail), Boualem Khoukhi (Al-Sadd), Abdulkarim Al-Ali (Al-Sailiya), Ali Afif (Al-Duhail)
Midfielders: Ahmed Fatehi (Al-Arabi), Abdulaziz Hatem (Al-Gharafa), Ahmed Moein (Qatar SC), Karim Boudiaf (Al-Duhail), Salem Al-Hajri (Al-Sadd), Abdelrahman Moustafa (Al-Ahli), Assim Madibo (Al-Duhail)
Forwards: Ahmed Alaaeldin (Al-Gharafa), Hassan Al-Haydos (Al-Sadd), Akram Afif (Al-Sadd), Almoez Ali (Al-Duhail)
Key player: Akram Afif
A regular amongst the goals for Qatar in the past year, the 30-year-old will be expected to carry the bulk of the goal-scoring burden for his side should they have any hope of making a deep run in the tournament.
FIFA World Ranking: 81
Asian Cup appearances: 2
Road to Qualification: Winners of Group B (third-round qualification)
Last 5 games: Bahrain (0-1), Australia (0-3), Uzbekistan (0-0), Kuwait (0-1), Oman (0-0)
Having undergone something of a footballing renaissance in the past few years, Lebanon will be the dark horses in a group comprising of markedly better sides – Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The preparations have been rather ominous for the Lebanese who are without a win in their last five games. Having said that, they will still fancy their chances of causing an upset or two in the tournament.
Goalkeepers: Mehdi Kahlil (Al Ahed), Ahmad Taktouk (Safa), Mostafa Matar (Salam Zgharta)
Defenders: Kassem El Zein (Nejmeh), Mootaz Bellah El Jounaidi (Al Ansar), Nour Mansour (Al Ahed), Joan Oumari (Al Nasr), George Felix Melki (AFC Eskilstuna), Mohamed Zein El Abidine Tahan (Safa), Walid Ismail (Salam Zgharta), Ali Hamam (Nejmeh)
Midfielders: Samir Ayass (Al Ahed), Mohamed Haidar (Al Ahed), Robert Alexander Melki (AFC Eskilstuna), Adnan Haidar (Al Ansar), Nader Matar (Nejmeh), Haytham Faour (Al Ahed), Hassan Chaitou (Al Ansar),
Forwards: Hassan Maatouk (Nejmeh), Hassan Chaito (Al Ansar), Hilal Alhelwe (Apollon Smirnis FC), Rabih Ataya (Al Ahed), Bassel Jradi (Hajduk Split)
Key player: Hassan Maatouk
The leading goalscorer for the Lebanon national team as well as their captain, Maatouk will definitely be looking at the tournament as an opportunity to do something special with this group of players.
FIFA World Ranking: 109
Asian Cup appearances: 5
Road to Qualification: Runners-up in Group A (third-round qualification)
Last 5 games: Bahrain (0-4), Vietnam (1-1), Chinese Taipei (2-0), Hong Kong (0-0), Mongolia (4-1)
Having qualified for the tournament under Norwegian Jorn Andersen who resigned in March last year, DPR Korea have since played under former player Kim Yong-jun, enduring mixed fortunes.
Having never won the tournament in their history, the North Koreans will be looking to make their mark in the tournament, although even qualifying for the next round will be considered an achievement.
Goalkeepers: Ri Myong-guk (Pyongyang City), Sin Hyok (Kigwancha), Kang Ju-hyok (Hwaebul)
Defenders: Kim Chol-bom (April 25), Jang Kuk-chol (Hwaebul), Kim Song-gi (Fujieda MYFC), An Song-il (April 25), Ri Tong-il (Kigwancha), Sim Hyon-jin (April 25), Ri Chang-ho (Hwaebul), Ri Il-jin (Sobaeksu)
Midfielders: Kim Yong-il (Kigwancha), Kim Kyong-hun (Kyonggongop), Kang Kuk-chol (Rimyongsu), Ri Un-chol (Sonbong), Ri Yong-jik (Tokyo Verdy), Choe Song-hyok (Arezzo), Ri Kum-chol (Wolmido)
Forwards: Han Kwang-son (Cagliari), Ri Hyok-chol (Rimyongsu), Pak Kwang-ryong (St. Polten), Jong Il-gwan (FC Luzern), Rim Kwang-hyok (Kigwancha)
Key player: Ri Myong-guk
Captain and goalkeeper Ri Myong-guk will be relishing the opportunity to guide his team to an unlikely spot in the next round, despite all the odds being stacked against them.
It will be a close call between Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the top spot, and both the Middle-Eastern countries will fancy themselves to seal a berth in the knockout rounds.
Lebanon, despite being placed ahead of Qatar in the rankings, will have a tough battle on their hands while DPR Korea will need a miracle to finish anywhere other than 4th.
Expect the Saudis to seal first place and Qatar to settle for second.
First place: Saudi Arabia
Second place: Qatar