THE Asian Cup continues on Sunday morning with out first chance to see Group C. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) highlights the value on Day 3.
United Arab Emirates v Qatar | Sunday 07.00 | Eurosport
Get that alarm set early for Sunday; arguably the tie of the first round of group games is on the agenda with Gulf neighbours UAE locking horns with Qatar. The two teams arrive in Australia boasting impressive form across the past calendar year and have serious aspirations for making a big dent on this month’s tournament.
I’ve already nailed my colours to the mast in Group C here and although I was warm for UAE, I did take Qatar to top the group. However, being a tournament opener and with so much riding on the fixture, it could be a real game of cat and mouse in Canberra. With the bookmakers barely able to split them, how can we?
Taking a look at UAE, we can see they held hosts Australia to a 0-0 draw in October and produced some excellent performances in November’s Gulf Cup. Mahdi Ali’s charges have now W24-D10-L4 of their last 38 games with only one loss by more than two goals. In that time they’ve faced Japan, Australia, Georgia, Armenia, Estonia, Lithuania, Paraguay and Norway with only Armenia and Japan coming away victories.
But Qatar can hold their hand up too, when it comes to form. The Maroon took the Gulf Cup title and even beat the Socceroos in an October meeting. They’re unbeaten in 11 coming into the Asian Cup and suffered defeats twice in 25 outings. What could give Qatar the edge is their ability to mix things up; they’re equally comfortable playing on the counter or taking the initiative with possession.
I want to sit on the fence in this one. Betfred’s 21/10 offering on the draw makes more appeal than any other market but there’s also the half-time draw at 10/11 with Bet365 to consider – eight of UAE’s last 10 have been level at the break as well as 12 of Qatar’s previous 18. Three of the four group games thus far have been settled by a solitary goal and we could see another tight heat on Sunday morning.
Iran v Bahrain | Sunday 09.00
I’m much more bullish about Iran’s showdown with Bahrain. I expect the Persians to do some damage in this tournament, after all, they are Asia’s best ranked sides and sauntered through qualification unbeaten. And that’s without mentioning their above-par displays at last summer’s World Cup.
Preparation for the tournament has again been a mess for Carlos Queiroz’s but they’ve proven more than once that they’re capable of overcoming those issues. In their last 17 matches they’ve W10-D4-L3 and kept six clean sheets from their last nine outings.
I’m going to back Iran to win but want to boost the price a little. The first option was the win ‘to nil’, something the Persians have managed in eight of their last 11 victories. But I also noticed the 9/5 from Betfair on an Iran win and Under 2.5 Goals. It’s a lot bigger than the 5/4 on an Iran win ‘to nil’ and with eight of Queiroz’s side’s last nine featuring fewer than three goals, looks a better bet.
Bahrain, for their part, are in a bit of a muddle. Onto their third coach in the previous 12 months and The Red appear to be in the midst of a downward spiral. One defeat in 12 doesn’t truly reflect the performances and they’ll be looking to scrape a 0-0 draw. Because that’s what Bahrain do.
Over the past two years, The Red have seen a whopping 21/26 games feature Under 2.5 Goals with 11 of their last 15 being settled by just one goal. They’ve been involved in eight goalless draws in those 15 games and I feel Iran have enough quality about them to pierce the stubborn Bahrain defence and grab a low-scoring win.
Iran v Bahrain – Iran to win and Under 2.5 Goals (9/5 Betfair)