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Blasts from the past – the Asian Cup’s veteran coaches

Abu Dhabi (AFP) – Ahead of the Asian Cup’s opening game on Saturday, here are five well-travelled coaches looking to add to their list of honours:  

– Hector Cuper, Uzbekistan –

Cuper is now in the 15th job of a coaching career that has spanned 25 years. The Argentine’s long CV includes spells as boss of Valencia (1999-2001) and Inter Milan (2001-2003), although trophy-wise he has only two Spanish Super Cups — with Valencia and Mallorca — to show for it. Cuper inspired Egypt to the final of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations but his reputation took a hit after his side lost all three of their group games at the World Cup in Russia. In mitigation, star forward Mohamed Salah was never fully fit. Now 63, Cuper subsequently left the Egypt post and has had an unremarkable start in charge of Uzbekistan, winning two matches, losing two and drawing two.    

– Sven-Goran Eriksson, Philippines –

Much-travelled, often maligned but always affable, the globe-trotting 70-year-old Swede’s latest outpost is a tropical archipelago that came calling after former England captain Terry Butcher walked out. Eriksson’s storied career has seen him manage some of Europe’s top clubs including Benfica, Roma, Lazio and Manchester City, as well as the national teams of Mexico, Ivory Coast and England — guiding the Three Lions to two World Cup quarter-finals in 2002 and 2006. Eriksson began his reign with the Azkals by reaching the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup, where they were edged 2-1 by Vietnam. He will face a much tougher task just to emerge from Group C in the UAE, where the Philippines will tackle favourites South Korea, China and Kyrgyzstan.

– Marcello Lippi, China –

The celebrated Italian led his country to World Cup glory in 2006, but he will need a miracle to lift the Asian Cup with China. The 70-year-old, reportedly one of the best-paid coaches in world football, looks set to leave his post after the tournament. Lippi has a mixed record since taking over the Chinese national side in October 2016. The team enjoyed an initial bounce, but their hopes of reaching last year’s World Cup were already all but over. It has been a difficult past 12 months, with China failing to score regularly under Lippi and winning just once in their last seven matches. In their final warm-up games, held in Qatar last month, China lost to Iraq and were held by Jordan.

– Carlos Queiroz, Iran –

The 65-year-old Portuguese is perhaps best known for being Alex Ferguson’s assistant in two stints at Manchester United. His work in his first spell at Old Trafford grabbed the attention of Real Madrid in 2003, but Queiroz lasted only one season at the Bernabeu when he won the Spanish Super Cup with a squad of “galacticos”. He took charge of Portugal for a second time in 2008-2010, guiding them to the last 16 of the World Cup in South Africa before being knocked out by eventual winners Spain. Queiroz took over Iran — one of the favourites to win the Asian Cup — in 2011. His team won plaudits at the World Cup last summer in Russia, but narrowly failed to make the knockout stages after being drawn in a tough group containing Spain and Portugal.

– Alberto Zaccheroni, UAE –

The Italian can boast a league title in his home country after triumphing in 1999 with an AC Milan side containing Paolo Maldini, George Weah, Leonardo and Oliver Bierhoff. The 65-year-old also knows how to win the Asian Cup — he took Japan to their fourth title in 2011. But a repeat with hosts UAE, who have never won it, would be a greater feat. Zaccheroni, who has also coached Juventus, Inter Milan and Lazio, has failed to convince for the UAE and as recently as September his position was reportedly under severe threat because of poor results and claims of dressing-room disquiet. He clung on, but the UAE’s results remain a real concern for home fans, with a shock 2-0 loss to 158th-ranked Kuwait in their final warm-up.


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