After what some would call a dull opening to the 2019 Asian Cup, Matchday 2 and 3 could not have been more polar opposite. Matchday 2 provided fans a brilliant display of football with all of the drama one could hope for. The underdogs showed up much like the NFL’s wild card weekend! Matchday 3 was a return to normal with some world class showings for a few nations that are looking to make some noise over the next month.
Group B got underway with the Socceroos taking on the Kingdom of Jordan. On paper this match had no business being a contest. Australia entered the match as a 1.40 betting favorite (40 cent return for every 1 dollar staked). Jordan shocked the land down under with a goal from Anas Bani Yaseen in the 27th minute. After the strike it was all hands on deck to save off wave after wave of Australian firepower. Despite having 56% of the possession and taking 11 shots, Jordan mustered a massive upset (7.50 underdog entering the match).
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From there India and Thailand took center stage in the mid-morning contest here on the east coast. India would enter the match as a 5.50 underdog and manage to absolutely destroy Thailand’s chances at advancing out of Group A. India struck first and Thailand was able to equalize on a goal from Teerasil Dangda before halftime. After half-time, the Indian Super League products came out on full display as India would tally three more before the final whistle and take the lead in Group A with three points.
Are you seeing the upset trend here? Care to guess what happened in the match between Syria and Palestine? Syria entered the group stages as a heavy favorite to qualify for the knockout rounds with Australia. If you remember, Australia earned a spot in the continental playoffs for a birth in the world cup against Honduras, but first had to go through Syria. Palestine qualified for the tournament while using many foreign players including players on the roster from Chile, Israel, and even the USL’s own Nazmi Albadawi. The upstart Palestinian’s shocked the Asian football world by holding Syria to a scoreless draw despite being reduced to 10 men in the 69th minute.
The underdogs wouldn’t fare quite so well this morning. Three regional powers came to play this morning and all three walked away with full points from their contests. The less intimidating of the three, China, managed to fend off the newest nation to the Asian Federation Kyrgyzstan.
South Korea would take on the Philippines in the mid-morning contest. South Korea has proven at times to be two different teams depending on how their roster is constructed. The 2018 Asian Games Gold medalists were without the services of their talisman Son Heung-min. The Spurs forward is joining the South Korean contingent for their next fixture later in the week. His arrival could not come soon enough as Korea looked clueless in the final third throughout the match. In the 67th minute, Hwang Ui-Jo (Gamba Osaka/JPN) would bury a turnaround effort after a fantastic run and service from Hwang Hee-Chan. The goal was all they would need Korea survived a scare from the Filipino underdogs.
One could question whether Iran was watching the chaos unfold on Matchday 2 and decided they want absolutely no part of it. Iran (the highest ranked country in Asia per FIFA), wasted little time decimating the Yemeni contingent. Iran would find themselves putting two past the goalkeeper from Yemen in 25 minutes and getting a third to their tally following an own goal from Saoud Abdullah Al Sowadi. The match would finish at 5-0 and leave little doubt to their qualification chances for the knockout stage.
Preview of Matchday 4
Matchday 4 begins tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM with a pair of contests in Group D and E. Two more favorites for qualification will take the field as Iraq looks to keep pace with Iran in Group D against Vietnam. In Group E, Saudi Arabia will faceoff against North Korea in their first fixture. Both countries are favorited to win their match by at least a goal via odds from Bovada. My personal pick is to parlay the money-line as Iraq and Saudi Arabia should walk out of these matches with all three points.