Football Moneyball – Asian Cup windfall awaits Socceroos in title race
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Moneyball – Asian Cup windfall awaits Socceroos in title race

Socceroos Nabbout
Socceroo Andrew Nabbout in action against Lebanon in 2018. Photos; Getty
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Former Norwich, Blackburn and Celtic star Chris Sutton has described the Asian Cup as “Mickey Mouse football”.

His slight came after Socceroos boss Graham Arnold refused a request from Celtic to hold onto Tom Rogic for last weekend’s “old firm” derby – a match in which Rangers defeated Celtic for the first time since 2015.

Chris Sutton suggests the Socceroos “stick their XXXX where the sun doesn’t shine”.

Despite Sutton showing scant respect for the AFC Asian Cup, it is a tournament of critical importance to the Football Federation of Australia (FFA).

The Socceroos are determined to defend their crown as Asian champions which was hard won on home soil in 2015.

However, I suspect the FFA executive is also eyeing the corresponding prize money attached to being Asian champions.

This prize money would certainly help the profit-and-loss outcome in a year that key partnerships with Caltex, NAB and Westfield all require renewal efforts – a task complicated by the relationships these brands have to former FFA directors including chairman Steven Lowy.

The 2019 edition of the AFC Asian Cup kicking off for the Socceroos on Sunday evening is set to be the richest in history with total prize money of nearly $US15 million ($21 million) up for grabs.

It is worth noting that, thanks to the expert positioning of the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA), the Socceroos players enjoy benefits that see them earn a proportional revenue pool derived from a share in FFA sponsorship, agreed match payments and a share in tournament prize money (about one-third of the AFC Asian Cup prize money is expected to go directly to the players).

This revenue pot ensures that the Socceroos players are well entrenched in the top-10 national team earners in the world. Well played PFA.

2019 AFC Asian Cup prize money

  • Group stage exit $US200,000 ($281,000) with $US4.8 million ($6.74 million) among the 24 participating nations
  • Reaching the knockout stages secures a bonus and losing in the semis will earn the FFA  $US1 million ($1.4 million)
  • Should the Socceroos make the final and lose the FFA earns $US3 million ($4.2 million)
  • And if Australia defends its title, the FFA will earn a handsome $US5 million ($7.02 million)

However, for Australia to be in with a chance of reaching the final to earn the big bucks, it needs to overcome its group opponents being Jordan, their FIFA World Cup qualification foes, Syria and Palestine.

In the event matches go true to form and reputation, the Socceroos look set for a quarter-final showdown with Japan, a match that would be worthy of a final.

The Socceroos avoided a clash with Japan in the 2015 edition of the tournament on home soil.

Australia’s record against the Blue Samurai in AFC Asian Cups is poor. The Socceroos were knocked over in the final by Japan in Qatar in 2011 and at the Round of 16 stage in the 2007 edition in Vietnam.

Therefore, a likely quarter-final clash with Japan is a mouth-watering prospect.

With injuries to key players Aaron Mooy and Martin Boyle making both men unavailable for the tournament, and a cloud over Mathew Leckie’s fitness, the depth of the Socceroos will be tested.

However, encouraging performances by the Socceroos in the lead-up to the event means Australian football fans’ expectations are high.

Socceroos supremo Graham Arnold is on the record as saying he is expecting the team to win every game and defend its Asian Cup crown. Time for talking is almost over, and the entire football community will be watching with great interest.

Match Schedule | Australia | AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019

Australia v Jordan
Date: Sunday, January 6, 2019
Venue: Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates
Kick-off: 3pm (local); 10pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Live in Australia on FOX SPORTS

Palestine v Australia
Date: Friday, January 11, 2019
Venue: Rashid Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Kick-off: 3pm (local); 10pm (AEDT)
Broadcast: Live in Australia on FOX SPORTS

Australia v Syria
Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Venue: Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates
Kick-off: 5.30pm (local); 12.30am (AEDT – Wednesday, January 16, 2019)
Broadcast: Live in Australia on FOX SPORTS

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