Group A Review: Enough talent for Oman and Kuwait to bounce back
With the group stage now over, ESPN FC runs the rule over the teams that failed to progress to the quarterfinals of the 2015 Asian Cup.
Oman had a real mixed bag this tournament, but ultimately finished in third spot in Group A -- exactly where pundits predicted they'd be.
Kuwait had few moments to savour as the Asian Cup proved a continuation of the generally awful form they displayed at the Gulf Cup of Nations.
It could have been such a different tournament had Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali buried his chance at the far post for Oman late on against South Korea. It was a moment which at once captured the potential and frustration of The Red Warriors during their time in Australia.
As it was, Al-Muqbali's strike against Kuwait earned Oman third spot in the group, which was where they deserved to be, so he gets the nod as the nation's best.
For Kuwait, it would seem strange to select an attacking player as the star of a team which scored just the one goal, but Aziz Mashaan caught the eye for his performance against South Korea.
Though he toiled without success against Australia when played out of position, the attacking midfielder posed plenty of questions of the Taeguk Warriors defence.
Oman -- Of course defeating rivals Kuwait to finish third was an important moment for Paul Le Guen's side, which makes it a clear highlight. However, Oman beat Kuwait 5-0 in November, so it came as no surprise. The organisation they showed against South Korea before succumbing to defeat was something they can take a lot of pride from.
Kuwait -- Similar to Oman, Al-Azraq performed so admirably against the might of South Korea, and really should have pinched a point from the game. Ali Al Maqseed only missed out on earning a draw by the width of the post in that clash.
The Kuwaitis also started the tournament brightly, snatching an early goal against the Socceroos to take a shock lead. Though they failed to hold on to their advantage, it was a bright point in an otherwise bleak time for Kuwaiti football.
It was a real shame that Oman did not test Australia when they had the chance. Not to take anything away from the energy and skill of the hosts, but Oman really failed to offer any sort of resistance or threat in going down 4-0.
Finishing was also a weak point, with numerous goalscoring opportunities wasted across the three games.
They could have caused the upset of the tournament had they held on against the Socceroos. Instead, Kuwait really did collapse in a heap, conceding four -- which, in honesty, could have been more.
Returning home without a point will also be a demoralising blow for this side, who would have taken so much from a draw with either South Korea or Oman -- instead they were on the end of harsh 1-0 lessons.
Where to from here?
One suspects the 2015 Asian Cup was one big lesson in taking chances for Oman.
After not capitalising on some really fierce work in their opening game, their campaign was soon over when they failed to put that same tenacity and discipline into their match with Australia.
In Al-Muqbali and Qasim Said, they have a couple of very talented players. In order to be a threat at this level, they will need to remain switched on at all times.
There's simply no hiding it: now is a tough time for Kuwait.
Murmurs of interference in Kuwaiti football from the royal family persist, while Nebil Maaloul was only appointed coach a few weeks before this tournament began.
There is plenty to fix, and the fact that the talented Bader Al-Mutawa saw so little game time did not help. A re-build is required here -- and that likely starts by improving their team spirit.
Rob Brooks writes about Australian football and the A-League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @RobNJBrooks