THE group-stage of the Asian Cup comes to a conclusion on Tuesday with Group D still to be finalised. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) has been hunting the best bets.
Iraq v Palestine | 09.00 Monday
Iraq enter their third and final Group D fixtures against Palestine knowing that three points will be enough to secure their place in the Asian Cup quarter-finals. Having beaten Jordan in their tournament opener, destiny lies in their own hands.
Iraq are just 1/4 to get the result they need to ensure qualification and with six wins in their last eight games against Tuesday’s opposition, have a right to be confident. Although coach Radhi Shenaishil has said he’s wary of the Palestinian threat and promises he’s side won’t underestimate their challenge.
Palestine’s results (0-4 v Japan, 1-5 v Jordan) don’t fully reflect the contribution they’ve made to Group D. Tournament favourites Japan barely broke sweat in their curtain-raiser but three sucker-punch goals before half-time ended their challenge against Jordan.
A lack of experience and defensive naivety was to blame for their heavy loss against Jordan but whilst the dream died early, the tiny Middle Eastern nation will be keen to end their tournament on a high. Whether they can or not, is up for debate as I get the impression their one and only chance has come and gone.
Iraq are a level above the Jordanians and should have enough quality, motivation and know-how to get over the line comfortably. Expecting to see the handicap mark around three or four, I’m pleasantly surprised to be able to back Iraq at 5/4 (Paddy Power) with a -2 start on the Asian Handicap market.
Taking this selection means we’ll get our cash back if Iraq only manage a win by two goals and collect if they swat the Palestinians aside by three goals or more. It looks a safe enough bet at a decent price considering Palestine come into this game with a -8 goal difference from their previous two matches.
Japan v Jordan | 09.00 Monday
Melbourne plays host to Japan’s clash with Jordan knowing just a point will be enough to secure top spot in Group D but I’m happy to invest faith in the Blue Samurai putting in a professional performance from the off.
The tournament favourites were fiercely critical about the standard of refereeing in their first two fixtures and Javier Aguirre’s side can expect another physical confrontation from Ray Wilkins’ Jordan side.
The last time these two teams clashed, Jordan came out on top in a World Cup qualifier but I just can’t see any chance of a repeat. Japan have stayed in second gear and have the personnel to step on the gas at any time.
Looking through the markets, I’m pleased to see the HT-FT market in Japan’s favour at odds-against. BetVictor’s offering of 21/20 looks just the ticket for a team far superior to the Jordanians.
Four of Japan’s last five victories have come with the Blue Samurai leading at the interval and although Jordan will offer resistance, I’m happy to invest faith in Aguirre’s team settling this tie early.
Iraq v Palestine – Iraq -2 Asian Handicap (5/4 Paddy Power)
Japan v Jordan – Japan HT-FT (21/20 BetVictor)