AUSTRALIA got the Asian Cup started with an impressive 4-1 win over Kuwait. So we asked Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) to highlight the best bets for Saturday’s action.
South Korea v Oman | Saturday 05.00 | Eurosport
South Korea face a tricky task in their tournament opener. With Group A rivals Australia beginning the Asian Cup with a convincing 4-1 win over outsiders Kuwait, the destination of top spot could easily be decided on goal difference.
The Taeguk Warriors will know three points against Oman is an absolute must and Uli Stielike’s charges will be keen to rack up the goals in their battle to finish top of the tree. Again, the smart play looks to be the Asian Handicap market.
South Korea -1 on the Asian Handicap can be backed at 17/16 with BetVictor and means we’ll get our cash back if the Taeguk Warriors only win by a one-goal margin. Anything better and we’ve got a winning bet.
Paul Le Guen has done his level best to make Oman a difficult team to beat and break down but their defensive resilience has been amiss in recent months with eight goals conceded in four fixtures against Qatar (x2), China and UAE. And it’s also worth noting the Red Warriors have been on the losing side in six of their last 11 matches.
Odds on a low-scoring game have tumbled in recent days as punters expect a backs-to-the-wall job from Oman but backing South Korea -1 holds the most appeal at odds-against quotes. The favourites boast the competition's best player in Son Heung-Min and have the potential to go the distance.
Uzbekistan v North Korea | Saturday 07.00 | Eurosport
Considered by many to be serious outsiders for the Asian Cup crown, Uzbekistan make their tournament bow against the great unknowns, North Korea. Confidence is high in the Uzbek group and they’ll be keen to get their tournament off to a flying start.
The White Wolves are a hard-working outfit and have one of the possible stars of the tournament in their ranks in midfield skipper and playmaker Server Djeparov. And having missed out on World Cup qualification by a single-goal, coach Mirjalol Qosimov has insisted his side are ready to make amends this month in Australia.
It’s a slight surprise to see Uzbekistan on the drift in the betting. The Central Asians are available to back at even-money (William Hill) now and although their weak position in the markets is of concern, it’s a price that holds appeal and well worthy of a small stab.
Youth football in North Korea is flourishing and at senior level Yun Jong-Su’s men have strung together some promising form pre-tournament but they’re still a great unknown. And with the Koreans having failed to beat any top opposition in recent years it’s hard to make a strong case in opposing Uzbekistan on Saturday.
The advice? Tread carefully until we’ve seen North Korea closer but don’t ignore the even-money on offer for Uzbekistan to take the points in Sydney.
Saudi Arabia v China | Saturday 09.00
Saturday morning also sees fallen Asian giants Saudi Arabia take on China in Group B and there’s plenty of reason to suggest the fixture could go against the grain and produce goals. BetVictor have made Over 2 Goals on the Asian Goals Line an even-money chance and I’m getting involved.
With this selection, we’ll get our cash back should the match feature exactly two goals and have a winner on our hands if three goals are plundered in the Brisbane showdown. As you can see, it offers punters extra insurance when looking for an Overs-based bet yet still offering attractive odds.
The glory days of Saudi football are long gone but the Green Falcons do boast some of the tournament’s hottest striking properties including Nasser Al-Shamrani, the current Asian Player of the Year.
Coach Cosmin Olaroiu was brought in just weeks before the tournament after their Gulf Cup final defeat but shouldn’t have too much tweaking to do in attack. The Saudis have netted in 10 of their last 11 matches.
However, defensively the Greens are vulnerable and that should allow China plenty of chances to hurt their more illustrious opposition. The Chinese are a work in progress under Alain Perrin and lack experience on the road but highly-rated Wu Lei is more than capable of unlocking defences.
For an extra incentive, it’s worth noting that 13 of the last 15 Saudi Arabia games have seen two goals or more whilst only two of China's last 11 matches have featured fewer than two goals. So let’s cheer on the goals this Saturday morning!
EDIT: Reports on Friday afternoon suggest Al-Shamrani may be out of the tournament with an injury sustained in training. Despite the news, I remain happy and comfortable with my selection for this fixture.
South Korea v Oman – South Korea -1 Asian Handicap (17/16 BetVictor)
Uzbekistan v North Korea – Uzbekistan to win (1/1 William Hill)
Saudi Arabia v China – Asian Line: Over 2 Goals (1/1 BetVictor)