IT’S matchday two for Group C sides on Thursday morning. Our Asian Cup fanatic Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) examines the best bets.
Bahrain v United Arab Emirates | 07.00 Thursday | Eurosport
United Arab Emirates hogged the Group C headlines after matchday one. A thrilling 4-1 win over rivals Qatar has been one of the standout displays of the tournament so far and also saw their price to win the pool and go the distance contract.
I had a lot of love for the UAE pre-tournament but decided to opt in favour of Qatar for group honours. Yeah, no laughing please. The Qataris were far from their best but don’t take anything away from the Emirati; the result didn’t flatter them and they’ll be doing their level best to build on that performance on Thursday morning.
UAE take on Bahrain and should be expected to come away with another three-point haul. Mahdi Ali’s charges have now suffered just four defeats in 39 games and will know a comfortable victory could go a long way to securing top spot in the group. Iran are likely to rival them for Group C gold and with goal difference potentially coming into play, the Emirati will be keen to go for the jugular.
Bahrain offered plenty of resistance against group favourites Iran but rarely looked likely to get anything from the game. Their uber-defensive approach doesn’t lend itself for an attractive spectacle and their recent fixtures display a plethora of dour Under 2.5 Goals encounters. So I’m unwilling to venture into handicap markets or goals-based bets for this showdown.
Instead, I’m going to keep things simple and take UAE to win in the Match Odds at 4/5 with William Hill. I fully expected them to be around the 4/6 mark and so playing the straight win market should offer punters a slice of value.
Qatar v Iran | Thursday 09.00| Eurosport
I’ve already bemoaned my almost certain losing bet on Qatar topping Group C above and I have to say, I was bitterly disappointed by their display in that 4-1 loss to UAE. They were outclassed from start to finish and were a shadow of the side we’ve seen over the previous 12 months.
Coach Djamel Belmadi was left fuming with his team’s error-strewn performance and blasted The Maroon in the media afterwards, claiming there were no positives to take from the defeat. It’s hard to tell how the Gulf Cup champions will react when they face Iran in Sydney but it’ll have certainly dented their confidence.
Meanwhile, my outright fancies Iran made a professional start to their bid for a first Asian Cup title in 39 years by defeating Bahrain 2-0. Coach Carlos Queiroz post-match press conference involved giving FIFA a rollicking rather than an assessment of his side’s display but they’re worthy 4/6 favourites to make it two wins from two on Thursday.
Queiroz continues to adopt a safety-first approach with the Persians despite their need to unleash the shackles when playing teams of moderate ability. It was evident in the early stages of the Bahrain match and it could be a similar story against the better-equipped Qataris.
I toyed with the idea of backing Iran to win the game to ‘nil’. They’ve kept clean sheets in seven of their last 12 matches and beat The Maroon 1-0 just 18 months ago. Qatar have failed to score in seven of 20 games since the start of 2014 but there’s no denying they carry an offensive threat.
So instead, I’m taking the plunge on BetVictor’s Time of First Goal market. They’ve gone evens on the first goal being scored in the 28th minute +. Backing this selection means we’ll have a loser if the opener is netted anytime between 0-27.59 minutes on the clock.
Edin Dzeko’s 23rd minute strike for Bosnia at the World Cup is the only time a goal has been scored before this mark in the Persians past 10 outings and marries up nicely alongside Iran’s approach to games under Queiroz’s tutelage.
Bahrain v UAE – UAE to win (4/5 William Hill)
Qatar v Iran – Over 28+ minutes in Time of First Goal (1/1 BetVictor)