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Holders Japan launch Asian Cup defence

Defending champions Japan begin their quest to retain the Asian Cup trophy against a Palestine side making their debut appearance at the tournament on Monday.

Holders Japan launch Asian Cup defence

Tokyo: Defending champions Japan begin their quest to retain the Asian Cup trophy against a Palestine side making their debut appearance at the tournament on Monday.

All eyes will be on whether a match-fixing scandal engulfing Japan coach Javier Aguirre affects Japan`s bid for a fifth title, with the experienced Mexican under intense pressure. 

Japan have won the Asian Cup more times than any other nation and have dominated the tournament in recent years -- their four triumphs coming in the last six editions. The Blue Samurai beat the Socceroos 1-0 in a dramatic final in 2011.

However, preparations for Australia have been far from smooth, with Aguirre named in an investigation into a match played in 2011 when he was managing in Spain`s La Liga.

The 56-year-old, who denies any wrongdoing, is expected to give evidence in a Valencia court in February, but whether he is still Japan boss by then may rest on performances Down Under.

AFC Challenge Cup champions Palestine could be a potential banana skin for Japan in what will be the first ever competitive meeting between these two nations.

The Group D match kicks off in Newcastle at 06:00 pm (0700 GMT).

Also on Monday, 2007 champions Iraq line up against underdogs Jordan, managed by former England international Ray Wilkins, at 07:00 pm (0900 GMT) in Brisbane.

Iraq`s challenge for a second title is being made without a full-time boss and with a talismanic marksman who is unemployed. 

Coach Radhi Shenaishil has been loaned from Qatar Sports Club for the Asian Cup after the sacking of Hakim Shakir just weeks before the start of the continental showpiece.

And Younis Mahmoud, who scored the winner in the final eight years ago, is without a club side after his departure from Saudi outfit Al Ahli last January.

Jordan have beaten Iraq just once in their previous 10 competitive outings.

From Zee News

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