Australia's Asian Cup Opponents: Bahrain
Australia's final group C opposition will be a tough test as they're one of the improving teams in the competition
Bahrain have long been one of the more consistent and solid Asian international sides but have never yet reached a World Cup finals. They have been extremely close though, being beaten in the last two consecutive play-offs. The first saw them narrowly lose out to Trinidad & Tobago after holding the West Indians at home.
They reached the play-offs for last year-s World Cup after a strong performance in the Asian qualifying setup saw them finish just below Japan in the final group stage.
This saw them paired with Saudi Arabia, who had played in the four previous World Cups as well as being the most successful side in Asian Cup history. The first leg saw them draw 0-0 at home so all they had to do is get a score draw or better away from home.
In the second leg they drew 2-2 after scoring in stoppage time which allowed them go through on away goals. They went on to play New Zealand in the final playoff in which the victor would qualify for the World Cup, but after a goalless draw in Manama on 10 October 2009, Bahrain lost the return leg 1-0 in Wellington, missing out on qualification at the last hurdle for the second time running.
Their previous Asian Cup experience has been better though, they finished fourth in 2004 after narrowly losing to eventual champions Japan in a 4-3 semi final thriller. They-ve also qualified for the last three Asian Cup tournaments so are now becoming a regular in the finals of Asian Cups.
Their steady improvement in the last ten years is further proven by the reward of FIFA-s most improved team award in 2004. Bahrain itself has also been quick to notice the national side-s improvement and the sport has become increasingly popular in recent years, with the domestic league also becoming stronger.
The climate and weather will be a factor in Bahrain-s favour as they will be used to the conditions in Qatar. Australia will definitely have to be on their game to match a side that almost caused an upset when they faced South Korea last week. The Koreans only managed a 2-1 win and Bahrain-s intensity surprised a team that Australia didn-t beat last time out.
Ranked 93rd in the world Bahrain should not pose too much of a problem to an on song Aussie outfit. Australia should be looking for a good result and by getting better goal difference than South Korea, the Qantas Socceroos will avoid tougher opposition en route to the finals.
With a country of under 1 million people, Australia should be looking for a solid performance and a victory that will send them through to the next round in top spot.
Should Australia progress, they'll face a quarter final in the early hours of the 23rd January against one of the top two from group D