Asian Cup 2015: Almost-boys Bahrain can break bad habits in Oz
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, Bahrain will be aiming to finally take centre stage in Australia.
Chances of qualification may seem stacked against them in a Group C containing Persian Princes Iran, United Arab Emirates and controversial 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar, but Bahrain could finally transform from nearly-men to a genuine threat.
The Red were one step away from making the 2004 Asian Cup final before being beaten 4-3 by eventual winners Japan, in a thrilling set-to, and have unfinished business in the tournament.
After coming so close, the Middle Eastern outfit have struggled to push on from their heyday in 2004, when they were also crowned FIFA’s Most Improved Team.
Battlers Bahrain have faced similar heartbreak in the World Cup, having never having qualified for the competition, but twice coming within just one game of doing so before falling at the final hurdle.
Also runners-up multiple times in the Gulf Cup of Nations and Arab Nations Cup, the Red could be forgiven for thinking they suffer from a big-tournament curse.
Caretaker boss Marjan Eid has a tough task, but could make history as well if he manages to navigate an Asian Cup bursting with top quality sides, to take his nation one step further to a first ever final.
Bahrain are currently on their fourth coach in three years, so the pressure is certainly on for Eid, who replaces recently axed Adnan Hamad, following a poor showing at the Gulf Cup.
Though the Red’s resources may not compare to many of their competitors, they have shown they can go toe-to-toe with their regional rivals in the recent past.
Having shut out Asian cup challengers Kuwait and Uzbekistan this calendar year, the Persian Gulf archipelago nation have illustrated they are more than capable of keeping a clean sheet.
To taste victory the Red will need to refocus on attack and sharpen their scoring boots, however.
Match-winner Ismail Abdul-Latif is more than capable of pulling a special strike out of the bag, after previously downing Saudi Arabia to help his nation reach the 2010 World Cup Qualification final play-off round.
He is expected to be joined up front by record-scorer Husain Ali. The fearsome forward has already reached a century of caps but, at age 32, must be used wisely by Eid.
With a new coach and a clean slate, Bahrain may appear as though they are backed into a corner but Australia may yet be their stage for long-awaited success.