It’s been a long week since we’ve checked with the AFC’s 2019 Asian Cup. Our last update was after Match Day 5 and unfortunately our best bets did not come through for Match Day 6. Since then, the favorites have dominated the tournament with little left to chance. With the end of Match Day 12, let’s take a look at the group standings and remaining fixtures as we prep for the knockout rounds beginning in five days.
Note: Tiebreakers work differently In group play than most tournaments. Head-to-Head results are the first tie breaker.
The first group has proven to be the most interesting of the bunch in the tournament. With the hosts U.A.E. slotted against Thailand, Bahrain, and India; it was surely anyone’s guess who would come out on top. U.A.E. were the odds on favorites to qualify out of the four countries and they managed to win the group with 5 points. After drawing their first match, the Emirates defeated India handedly and hung on to a draw against Thailand.
India suffered the biggest heartbreak in the group having throttled Thailand in the opener 4-1. After the aforementioned defeat to the Emirates, India would have locked up a spot in the knockout rounds with a point against Bahrain. Bahrain would be stymied throughout the match, however the Blue Tigers would make a foolish challenge in the technical area and give up a penalty that was buried by Jamal Rashid in the 91st minute. Bahrain would finish group stage with four points and assure themselves a position in the knockout stages.
The final fixtures for group play wrapped up today with a rematch of a World Cup qualifying playoff between Australia versus Syria, and Palestine taking on Jordan. Jordan entered the day having qualified for the knockout stage regardless of the result against Palestine. In an absolute snooze-fest, Jordan controlled 66% of the possession against Palestine while both nations only could amass seven shots on target in a 0-0 draw.
The opposite fixture proved to have enough fireworks for both matches. Those who tuned into the rematch between Australia and Syria were delighted with one of the best matches of the tournament. In the 41st minute, Australia’s Awer Mabil receives a long pass off a restart. Mabil takes a few touches outside of the technical area and unleashes a left footed curler into the upper corner of the goal for the lead. Not even two minutes later, Syria would counter after Omar Khribin followed up his rebound into the back of the net.
Controversy would strike in the 61st minute as Australia commits a flagrant handball in the box that is missed by the referee. During the next break in play Cesar Ramos (Mexico) would be crowded by Syrian players desperately pleading for a penalty. Their answers would come in the 80th minute after slight contact in the box would give Syria a penalty that was buried by Omar Al Somah.
All Syria would need to do is hold on for the remaining minutes of the match to steal the third place spot from Palestine. In mirroring heart-break to India, poor defending would bury Syria. In the 93rd minute, a display in poor marking would allow Tom Rogic to blast one into the goal with seconds left in the match. Surprisingly, Palestine have a decent opportunity to end up in the knockout rounds despite finishing with two points.
The final match day begins tomorrow as the group leaders, China and South Korea, will face-off against each other for the top spot in Group C. Kyrgyzstan and the Philippines will both enter the final fixture date with two losses. Given the standings across the tournament, a win is crucial for both nations if they want any chance to advance into the knockout rounds. While there is not much separating the two nations, Kyrgyzstan enters the match as the bookmaker favorite at -110. With nothing to lose, expect both nations to look for counters and send numbers forward in a hurry. I would stay away from this match from a betting perspective, but if you’re looking for action our best bet is Under 2.5 goals at -125.
China and South Korea will also duke it out at 8:30am on the east coast of the United States. Despite earning victories in their first two fixtures, South Korea has been underwhelming. One could definitely argue they’re efficient but have been lacking with the absence of Heung Min Son. Son returns to the Korean side, however manager Paulo Bento has already tempered expectations. Should Son start the match against China, my best bet would be Korea -.5,-1 at -118. If Son is benched in favor of the knockout rounds, stay away from this contest as Korea has proven to be less powerful throughout his absence.
Group D will also include the group stage fixtures tomorrow in similar fashion. In a mirror to Group C, Iraq and Iran will square off at 11:00am with both nations entering the match with six points. In a battle of attrition, both teams will seek to continue their unbeaten streak. This match takes our spotlight as the match of the day for the tournament on the 16th of January. Iran’s defense has been perfect so far with two clean sheets. If Iran score an early goal, expect them to throw numbers behind the ball in order to preserve the victory. This match may very well come down to who sheds first blood. My recommendation is to avoid the betting station for this match and just enjoy a tactical battle for 90 minutes.
Yemen enter the final fixture as the second worst squad in the tournament. Having conceded eight goals, only North Korea has conceded more (10), Vietnam will be setting their sights on goal in order to lock up a potential spot in the knockout rounds. Vietnam tested Iraq for a full match before conceding a costly goal in the final moments. If you’re seeking action, my recommendation is Vietnam Team Goals Over 1.5 at -145. If you’re feeling brave, Vietnam is +145 at a -1.5 match spread although I do not have confidence in their discipline in defense.
Group E & F
In a similar trend to the matches on the 15th, the final two groups will complete the group stages with the teams with two victories a piece facing each other, while the nations with two losses seek one final spot in the knockout rounds. Group F will take the stage early in the morning as Uzbekistan face-off against Japan and Oman battle Turkmenistan.
Uzbekistan has been a pleasant surprise in this group allowing only one goal in their first two matches will nabbing all three points. The White Wolves will face their stiffest competition in quite sometime as the Samurai Blue will look to be one of the nations with a perfect record heading into the knockout rounds. Japan enter the match as the betting line favorites, and I really don’t see anything stopping them from getting all three points at the betting line favorites at -150. The quality of the Japanese side and the desire to avoid Qatar/Saudi Arabia should be enough to see them through in the group. Slam the -150 when you can, this is a lock.
Oman have not looked good throughout the entire competition. It’s incredible to think that Oman has a realistic opportunity to steal a third place spot in the knockout rounds as they enter the final fixture date with a -2 goal differential. Their defensive capabilities surely make them a -280 favorite entering the match, yet don’t be surprised if Turkmenistan manages to corral a draw and send both nations home early. I’m intrigued in +320 line for a draw in this contest, yet not enough to actually touch this game with a ten-foot pole.
Group E has proven to be less exciting than originally expected with wonderful performances by Saudi Arabia and Qatar against the upstart Lebanon. Both nations managed 2-0 victories against the Cedars, both absolutely throttled North Korea who is arguably the worst team in the tournament. Saudi Arabia have proven to be a more cohesive unit throughout international tournaments than the Qatari’s. Qatar is still gathering big tournament experience ahead of the 2022 World Cup on home soil and will be in the field at Copa America in the summer. I can’t see either team pushing for a victory here throughout the match as both would be happy to rest several of their starters. The betting lines reflect the same as the 1-draw-2 come in at +145,+190,+225 respectively.
The final match of the tournament will have Lebanon squaring off against North Korea. Lebanon has a real opportunity to sneak in the back door entering the match with a -4 goal differential. Surprisingly enough, these two nations are no strangers to each other. Lebanon steamrolled their way through qualification in a group including North Korea where they had a 5-0 scoreline in Beirut and 2-2 draw in Pyongyang. Lebanon need a two-goal victory to have any real chance at qualifying for the knockout stages. I expect the Cedars to finally have their breakout moment and win this match by at least two goals.
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