MARK O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) enjoyed an excellent start the Asian Cup. Can it continue on Monday morning with Group D taking centre stage?
Japan v Palestine | 07.00 Monday | Eurosport
The first round of group fixtures concludes on Monday morning as we get our first glimpse of tournament favourites and defending champions Japan. The Blue Samurai take on tiny Palestine in arguably the biggest mismatch of the championship.
The best price you’ll get on Japan winning is just 1/8 with -2 in the Asian Handicap only a 4/6 play. So the best option might be looking at the Asian giants to Win Both Halves with Betfair offering it at 20/21.
After a disastrously disappointing World Cup, the Blue Samurai are rebuilding under Javier Aguirre and can call upon the Asian Cup’s most feared forward-line. With Shinji Okazaki flanked by Keisuke Honda and Yoshinori Muto and Shinji Kagawa playing a more withdrawn role, the Japanese should have no problem getting off to a flyer.
The Palestine side have already created their own slice of history by qualifying for the cup and their lack of top-level experience is likely to be their undoing here. Friendly results have been positive but it’s hard to be optimistic about their chances in their Group D curtain-raiser.
Jordan v Iraq | 09.00 Monday | Eurosport
Two teams in rotten recent form clash in what could turn out to be the decider for second spot in Group D. With Palestine the big outsiders, Jordan and Iraq know a three-point haul from this meeting in Brisbane is absolutely pivotal for either sides hopes.
Iraq have undoubted quality and weren’t far off securing a place at last summer’s World Cup. But a disastrous performance in November’s Gulf Cup resulted in Hakeem Shaker getting the axe and former player Radhi Shenaishil being given the role of ironing out the squad. The Lions’ last 10 results read W1-D5-L4 and they’ve failed to score in six of those outings. All 10 have also seen Under 2.5 Goals bank and that’s also been the case in 14 of their last 16 matches. However, backing Under 2.5 Goals just isn’t feasible at 4/9 quotes with even the Under 2 Asian Handicap Goals offering just 8/11.
Jordan, led by Ray Wilkins and Frank Stapleton, are just as dry in the goals column. The Chivalrous have scored just twice in seven games since the new management team took charge and their last 10 fixtures have resulted in W0-D2-L8. Serious questions are being asked about their approach and progression and it’s difficult to see how or where their points are going to come from.
The most appealing bet is to chance Iraq with a 0 start on the Asian Handicap market at 3/4 with BetVictor. It’s a few ticks bigger than the Draw No Bet price and offers the same mechanic – backing this selection means we get our stake back if the game ends all square and profit should the Lions win.
Despite their lack of victories in recent months, the Iraqi team have a decent roster of players and showed their pedigree in two December friendlies with Uzbekistan. A 1-0 win and a 0-0 draw were earned in the UAE against the highly-rated Group B side, no mean feat at all.