JapanJapan is my tip to win the tournament, it's not the biggest of revelations but there you go. I reckon they have the right amount and mix of attacking talent to overcome all obstacles other sides in the competition throw at them. As well as that they have managed to build on their World Cup success while getting out the old guard while bringing in the young guns with one of the smoothest transitions I have seen from any national side who doesn't select the likes of Kagawa and Honda.
Nakajima, Doan and Minamino are an exciting prospect and one of, if not the most dangerous attacking combinations that an opposing side will face throughout this whole competition. That is the reason I am tipping them to win, and if those three attacking players continue the way they are going they'll be as big globally as the likes of Honda, Kagawa, and Nakata.
Moriyasu has done an excellent job in making the transition be as smooth as possible, and it has seemingly been seamless but he has only led Japan in friendly games so far which could be the concern, can he cut the mustard in a proper tournament; in my belief the signs are there that Japan has made a superb choice in who they have picked to manage them.
Prediction - Winners
South KoreaSouth Korea went into this into the Asian Cup preparations in a cloud of pessimism due to their limp performance in the World Cup in games that were very winnable. They only showed what they could do against Germany because they felt they had let everyone down, and that massive kick up the arse sent them out more determined than ever to beat the Germans, well either that or Shin Tae-yong just isn't that good at motivating the lads even for a World Cup. Too much thinking about spies and confusing Sweden than having your mind and focus on your own game. That Germany game, however, was another kind of wonderful, but the KFA were right to get rid of Shin Tae-yong who clearly lacked plans and ideas big time in the World Cup and had no clue how to change the game when the chips were against him.
In comes Paulo Bento, who allegedly wasn't a first choice or second choice, but some way down the list of names that the KFA had jotted down on some bog roll paper (or something to that sort). However, the fact the names higher up the list turned them down (allegedly) has seemingly worked into the KFA's favour because Bento has been doing great for South Korea. He has got them on the front foot and attacking which suits South Korea more than the slow plodding defensive turd they put out at the World Cup under Shin Tae-yong where the only game plan was to launch it to the beanpole up top.
South Korea will be a massive force at this Asian Cup and just like Japan have some excellent attacking players, Lee Jae-sung will look to prosper in the absence of Son Heung-min in the first couple of matches and has been playing brilliantly for Holstein Kiel in Germany.
I believe South Korea has been plonked into the 'easier' side of the draw so if they can navigate the odd difficult game that pops up, then there is no reason why they cannot get all the way to the final, where I think they might just come up short. If Son manages to bring his current Spurs form to the finals though everyone else might as well pack up and go home.
Prediction - Final defeat
ChinaChina are gonna have a rubbish tournament, there are in an easier group compared to other teams which might benefit them to get out of the group but if they do people shouldn't expect them to get much further than that. The first difficult team they will come up against they will be knocked out. If the Philippines and Kyrgyzstan can be solid and organised then they have a chance of getting a result.
It is going to be a big embarrassment for China that they don't do so well considering how much they are spending on it, and how much they want success but China is proving to the world that you can't always buy success and you need to have a clear well thought out strategy in place, instead of chopping and changing all the time.
Lippi has had enough, and clearly wants to get the hell out of dodge, hence why he is likely to be leaving after the Asian Cup. Meanwhile, China has had an awful run of games leading up to the Asian Cup where they have failed to beat teams they should be beating if they ever hope to one day become a world superpower in football. Their lack of goals should be a worry, and the chance of them being humiliated in the group stages alone is quite high, never mind them getting out of the group. I do however think they will squeak out of the group then get sent packing in the second round.
Prediction - Second round exit
North KoreaNot a lot is known about the North Korean side, but I saw them live a few months back in Taipei during the East Asian Championship and they didn't look to be at the same level they were at when Jorn Andersen was in charge. They lacked the same attacking intensity he brought to the team.
Since then they have reverted back to a typical 'North Korean' style with a flat back 5 which is ultra defensive. During the East Asian Championship, they were also very fond of taking a dive which I hadn't seen them do so often in the past.
They do have a handful of European based players, mainly attacking ones and it is a sign that North Korea is trying to get their best players out and playing abroad in an attempt to gain vital experience. There are major obstacles for North Korean players playing outside of their country though as everyone should be well aware of, so the tiny amount who play outside of North Korea are gonna be vital to the team.
They have been drawn in a very difficult group though, consisting of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Lebanon (who didn't lose to North Korea in qualifying) so the odds on them even getting out of the group is low. The best bet for North Korea would be to squeak through as one of the best third-placed sides, but even that looks to be a very distinct possibility, as they are going to struggle to win even one game in my opinion.
Prediction - Group stage exit