WE’RE down to the final four in the Asian Cup. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) analyses the best bets from the first semi-final on Monday morning.
South Korea v Iraq | Monday 09.00 | Eurosport
The Asian Cup quarter-finals produced two huge shocks last week. Firstly Iraq overcame rivals Iran on penalties after an incredible fixture ended 3-3 after extra-time and hours after United Arab Emirates stunned the world by knocking defending champions and tournament favourites Japan out.
So will we see more drama on Australia Day? Sydney hosts the first semi-final and it’s hard to see Iraq repeating their heroics against South Korea.
Why? Well apart from going the distance in an emotionally and physically draining last eight game, the Lions have had the threat of disqualification looming over the side temporarily, disrupting preparations.
Iran lodged an appeal against the result post-match by claiming Iraq fielded an ineligible player. It meant Radhi Shenaishil's men were left waiting until just over 24 hours prior to the match to decide who would be in the semi-final. The Lions’ place was finally confirmed on Sunday.
Shenaishil said he was racing against time to get his players back into game shape after their exhausting quarter-final and that’s surely not ideal when coming up against the Koreans.
The Lions arrived in Australia on the back of a 10-game winless streak and were 1-0 down to Iran before a controversial sending off handed them the initiative.
So South Korea go into the showdown as expected 3/4 favourites having topped Group A and getting an extra day’s rest. Impressively, Uli Stielike's South Korea are yet to concede a goal at the tournament. They went through the group stage with three 1-0 wins and then held Uzbekistan at bay before claiming a 2-0 win in extra-time.
The Taegeuk Warriors have been far from vintage and appeared to suffer under the weight of an expecting nation back home. The Koreans haven’t reached an Asian Cup final since 1988 and were dumped out by Monday’s opponents at this stage back in 2007.
Stielike’s side have been hit by injury and illness during the competition but word is star Son Heung-min should be fit enough to start and that should give the Taegeuk Warriors a huge boost in the attacking stakes.
I’m confident and comfortable with their defensive shape and organisation and at 3/4 (Ladbrokes) they remain a fair price to win inside 90 minutes. But I’m going to be greedy. Ladbrokes are offering 13/10 on a South Korea win ‘to nil’ and it’s a bet I’m going to get involved with.
Since the start of 2014, the Koreans have won nine games and eight of those have been bagged without conceding a goal. What’s more, Stielike’s charges have kept clean sheets in seven of their last nine outings.
Iraq will adopt a safety-first attitude and like South Korea, aren’t accustomed to high-scoring games. The Lions have failed to score in eight of their last 14 with 13 of their previous 14 defeats all coming when they’ve been shut out.
South Korea v Iraq – South Korea to win ‘to nil’ (13/10 Ladbrokes)