- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Newly crowned Asian champion Australia can restore some of the continent’s pride in a match against 2014 World Cup winner Germany in one of several friendlies for Asian teams this week.

The Socceroos won the 2015 Asian Cup by defeating South Korea 2-1 in a Sydney final January and the trip to Kaiserslautern is their first game since. A good result would serve the cause of Asian soccer, set back by the fact that all four of the region’s teams finished bottom of their World Cup groups last June.

It also marks Australia’s return to the scene of one of its finest ever victories, a come from behind 3-1 win over Japan in the opening match of the 2006 World Cup. Tim Cahill was the hero that day in Germany with two goals, but the new star of Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua has been ruled out of the game through injury.

Former Nuremburg defender Matthew Spiranovic is also unavailable and partner Trent Sainsbury could also miss out. Asian Cup Most Valuable Player Massimo Luongo is facing a late fitness test. The absences make a tough task for Australia that much tougher.

“Not many teams will come here expecting to win and we are no different in terms of the scenario before us,” Australia coach Ange Postecoglou told Australian broadcaster SBS. “It’s an opportunity you don’t want to waste and you do that by worrying too much about the outcome in terms of results… We’ll have a go, we played well at the Asian Cup with a certain style of football and we will be sticking with that.”

Germany is preparing for Sunday’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Georgia and is looking to improve its recent form. The world champion has dropped five points in the first four games of Group D as it adapts to a new formation.

“The game against Australia will allow us to regain our momentum,” German team manager Oliver Bierhoff said. “System changes need time, even in training, to get the whole thing right.”

Japan’s opponent, Tunisia, is a little less glamorous but the game is equally important. The Samurai Blue crashed out of the Asian Cup in the quarterfinals just months after a hugely disappointing World Cup. Javier Aguirre was appointed coach in August but then fired in February as the Mexican was under investigation by Spanish courts following allegations of match-fixing during his time as Real Zaragoza coach in 2011.

Aguirre has been replaced by Vahid Halilhodzic. The Bosnian, who took Algeria to the second round of the 2014 World Cup, was appointed in March and is charged with lifting Japan from its current malaise. Halilhodzic has included the usual European-based stars such as Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa in a large squad of 31.

“I was able to get Algeria to No. 17 in the rankings and I want to do the same for Japan,” Halilhodzic said upon his appointment by the team ranked 53. “It won’t come overnight but given time Japan can improve, too. I’m excited and honored to be part of this new challenge. I look forward to working with the players, and the first goal will be to qualify for the World Cup.”

There is controversy in Iran amid reports that coach Carlos Queiroz has resigned after almost four years in charge, taking the team to the 2014 World Cup. The former Real Madrid coach has fallen out with the Iranian Football Federation, with Tehran media claiming this week’s games in Europe against Chile and Sweden will be his last. There were also reports that authorities in Iran stopped Queiroz from leaving the country due to unpaid tax bills, though he has now joined the team in Austria.

South Korea is in action for the first time since defeat in the Asian Cup final and hopes to continue its improvement since the 2014 World Cup. The Taeguk Warriors host Uzbekistan on Friday in a replay of the tournament’s quarterfinal. Coach Uli Stielike has selected Bundesliga star Son Heung-min and Ki Sung-yeung of Swansea City in the English Premier League. Kim Jin-su of Hoffenheim is injured.

Elsewhere, Qatar needs to bounce back from finishing bottom of its Asian Cup group with home games against Algeria and Slovenia. Saudi Arabia takes on Jordan in a clash of two teams that fell at the first hurdle of the 2015 Asian Cup while China can continue its encouraging form at home against Haiti and Tunisia.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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