Early exit beckons for Kuwait in tough group
The tiny Gulf nation of Kuwait has a history of punching above its weight at the Asian Cup
The tiny Gulf nation of Kuwait has a history of punching above its weight at the Asian Cup but will struggle to launch a giant-killing run in Australia.
Kuwait proudly hoisted the 1980 trophy in their third tournament when West Asian sides ruled the roost, but have failed to advance beyond the group stage in their last two appearances in 2004 and 2011.
Getting out of a group that includes hosts Australia, South Korea and Oman may also be beyond the world 124th-ranked Kuwaitis, whose bosses sacked Brazilian coach Jorvan Vieira in November following a disappointing Gulf Cup of Nations campaign.
Former Tunisian international Nabil Maaloul was hastily recruited and given a month to turn around their fortunes.
The ‘mission impossible’ nature of the task was underlined by Kuwait’s demoralising 5-0 loss in their last Gulf Cup match against fellow Middle Eastern minnows Oman.
“Our group at the Asian Cup is very difficult, as we have Australia and Korea Republic who played at the FIFA World Cup, and there also is Oman, who defeated Kuwait at the Gulf Cup,” Maaloul said on his appointment early in December.
“However, we want to put in a good performance at the Asian Cup, as we will not be there just to take part.”
Maaloul’s tenure began with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Iraq in Sharjah on Dec. 22, his team conceding a late penalty.
The coach will hope long-serving forward Bader Al-Mutawa can fire in Australia after being one of the few Kuwaiti players to leave the Gulf Cup with his head held high.
The 29-year-old has made over 100 appearances for Kuwait and his blistering equalizer in the team’s 2-2 draw against United Arab Emirates was a reminder of his class.
Kuwait play Australia in the tournament opener at Melbourne’s Rectangular Stadium on Jan. 9.
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