HAVING delivered bags of winners during the Asian Cup, Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) returns with his verdict on the showpiece final.
South Korea v Australia | Saturday 09.00 | Eurosport
Australia go in search of their first piece of major silverware on Saturday as the tournament hosts take on South Korea in the Asian Cup final from Sydney. A capacity crowd will be roaring the Socceroos on but are they worth a bet at 6/5?
The short answer is no. That’s not because Korea won the group games against the Roos; not at all. Little can be taken from that meeting as both sides opted to ring the changes with qualification to the quarter-finals already assured. Korea did claim the points but their 1-0 success masked the Australian dominance that day.
Both sides came through their semi-finals quite comfortably and unscathed, with the Koreans enjoying the benefit of an extra day's rest to prepare. Although there is an injury doubt surrounding Roos right-back Ivan Franjic.
Should he fail to make it, Aussie coach Ange Postecoglou will have a few big decisions to make. It could easily sway the game in Korea’s favour too. The Taeguk Warriors’ X-Factor comes from their front-three with plenty of threat provided by the talents of attackers Son Heun-min, Nam Tae-hee and Lee Jeong-hyeop who enjoy playing from wide positions.
Korea certainly look a touch on the large side at 3/1. They’ve not really stepped out of second gear at the tournament and it will be interesting to see how Uli Stelike's side approach the match. Their pragmatic style has seen the underdogs keep clean sheets in all five outings thus far but Australia arrive in Sydney with the best record in front of goal.
Matt Leckie, Roobie Kruse, Massimo Luongo and James Triosi should give the Taeguk Warriors plenty to think about whilst Tim Cahill continues to hog the headlines for his goalscoring exploits. But 10 different Socceroos having scored in their run to the final and Korea will know, Postecoglou’s men relish a more open game.
Where this game will probably be won and lost is the midfield. While host skipper Mile Jedinak provides a powerful presence in the middle of the park, Korean skipper Ki Sung-yueng is just as influential and is a vital cog in Stelike's side going forward and tracking back. Whoever gets the upper hand should prosper.
I’m edging towards taking South Korea in the Double Chance market at 3/4 (Bet365). They’ve not won an Asian Cup title since 1960 and have failed at the final hurdle in three finals since but the omens seem to be in their favour, despite meeting Australia in their own backyard.
However, at the same price I’d rather be taking BetVictor’s 3/4 on Under 2 Goals being scored in Sydney. Going back to 1988, the last seven Asian Cup finals have seen just one feature Both Teams Scoring and six matches settled by just one goal or fewer in 90 minutes.
Australia’s 2011 final with Japan was goalless after 90 minutes and it could be a similar story on Saturday morning. Korea’ penchant for clean sheets and low-scoring games (10 of their previous 11 outings have featured two goals or fewer), it looks the safest play.
With this selection, we’ll get our cash back if exactly two goals are netted but have ourselves a winner if a solitary goal proves decisive. Or of course, if the match ends goalless in 90 minutes.
It’s going to be an intriguing contest. The fear of losing could easily outweigh the desire to go out and get the game won in 90 minutes and therefore I’m happier taking a low-scoring Asian Cup final than taking sides.
South Korea v Australia – Under 2 Goals on the Asian Goals line (3/4 BetVictor)