2019 Asian Cup: Expert Previews

The 2019 Asian Cup will be contested by 24 teams, all looking to stop the Socceroos from defending the title. Check out the expert previews of all the Socceroos games in the tournament, as they look to go back to back under new manager Graham Arnold.

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Japan in a snapshot

FIFA Ranking: 50
Asian Cup ‘19 record W6 D0 L0 (F11 A3)
Asian Cup history excluding ‘19 W35 D12 L5 Champions 4 of the 8 tournaments they have entered

Key Player

Yuya Osaka – Werder Bremen striker who has scored 4 goals in the games at these championships including 2 in the semi- final. That is a goal every 49.5 minutes thus far which is an amazing return.

Qatar in a snapshot

FIFA Ranking: 93
Asian Cup ‘19 record W6 D0 L0 (F16 A0)
Asian Cup history excluding ’19 W6 D11 L15 Best finish was to reach quarter finals as host in 2011

Key Player

Akram Afif – Provided assists for the first 3 goals in the Qatari semi-final thumping of UAE. Has scored 14 goals in 15 domestic Stars League starts this season so despite not scoring in this tournament yet he carries much of the Qatari hopes.

Match Overview

Japan are the kings of Asian football having dominated this tournament in recent history. They have been matched at a top of $6.5 in the tournament winner market starting the tournament as one of the teams to beat. The have not been at their best in this tournament having come from behind to beat Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

They have a history of Brazilian influence in their football and perhaps have been channelling the Samba boys by building into the tournament because they were superb in their most dominant performance. They still have room to improve but will be very confident.

Qatar were matched as high as $40 for the tournament and were not expected to threaten despite a relatively soft group. Not terribly surprising given they had won just 6 matches in 9 finals appearances prior to this tournament.

They are however a serious team and Australian fans need only note that they destroyed UAE 4-0 in the semi-final. They are building toward hosting the 2022 World Cup with some confidence and a team that had an average age of just 24.9 years in the semi-final.

Both teams have kept things tight in matches thus far with Qatar scoring 11 of their 16 goals after halftime and Japan 8 of their 11.

Historically 11 of 12 Asian Cup finals have been under 2.5 goals with 5 going to extra time and 2 of those to penalties.

Verdict

I expect a cagey match early with limited chances. There is a risk that it will remain dour throughout although both teams have plenty of attacking ability. Japan are deserved favourites and have a history of success that Qatar are only dreaming of and I think this will be the difference.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Japan to lift the Cup 1.5+ for 2 units

 BACK – Under 2.5 goals at 1.5+ for 2 units

 BACK – Japan to win 2-0 at 9.0+ for 0.5 units

Match Overview

Australia struggled to impose themselves eventually needing penalties to overcome Uzbekistan yet still they had enough chances to win the match having landed 9 shots on target to the opponents 2 and holding 61% of the possession.

Perversely I expect that this match will suit them much better as the Uzbek system was more resembling a strong European team rather than the somewhat weak middle eastern style of their opponents here.

The UAE have really struggled in this, their home tournament, barely scraping through the group stages and only overcoming Kyrgyzstan 3-2 in extra time. They lived dangerously with the woodwork coming to their rescue on three separate occasions.

Australia beat the UAE home and away in 2018 World Cup Qualifying

Australian Team News

Australia lose Tom Rogic to suspension with coach Graham Arnold needing to decide between including someone like Mustafa Amini in the number 10 role or changing shape and playing a second striker with Apostolos Giannou the most likely.

If fit enough Matthew Leckie may also get a start but is guaranteed that we will see him for 30 minutes or so given his impact on the round of 16 match.

Key player

Chris Ikonomidis – with 4 assists for the tournament he is the only player who will take the field having provided an assist now that Rogic is not there. He will need to be on his game for Australia to win.

UAE in a snapshot

UAE are ranked 79th (to Australia’s 41st) in the FIFA rankings. UAE have avoided top quality opposition in recent times and have lost to the likes of Venzuela and Gabon at home.

There best finish in the Asian Cup was as runners up when they hosted in 1996 and were semi finalists in both 1992 and 2015.

Coach Alberton Zaccheroni led the Japanese team to the title in 2011, beating Australia in the final.

Key Player

Ali Ahmed Mabkhout – With star player Omar Abdulrahman out of the team It has been left to Mabkhout to carry the team’s attacking threat at these championships with 3 goals and 1 assist so far.

Verdict

Be it the pressure of being hosts or just under performing this UAE team is really struggling particularly defensively where they have been very poor. Australia will be too strong but having stuttered through their match against Uzbekistan it may take them some time to impose themselves.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Australia to win at 1.7+ for 2 units

Match Overview

Australia bounced back in their last pair of group matches to record wins over Palestine and Syria. The Palestine win was extremely comfortable and whilst they controlled the majority of possession and territory against Syria they looked vulnerable at times.

They conceded a very soft first goal to a free header in the 6-yard box but were unfortunate to concede a late penalty to a non-existent foul. I suspect that vulnerability had more to do with the re-shaped defence of Milligan standing in for the suspended Trent Sainsbury.

Up the other end all of a sudden the Australian’s look very dynamic with the front 4 of Ikonomidis, Rogic, Mabil and Maclaren creating plenty of chances and scoring some world class goals. There is a chance that this new-found output will struggle against the tougher opponents but for now they seem to be in a very good place.

Uzbekistan won their first two group games against Oman and Turkmenistan before the overnight loss to Japan. They were somewhat fortunate to beat Oman (2-1) and the result against Turkmenistan (4-0) was testament to good finishing as much as a dominant display.

They saved their best group performance for their last match against Japan without getting the draw or win they needed to top the group

Australian Team News

Andrew Nabbout aside Australia have a fit squad and will likely bring Sainsbury back into defence shifting Milligan back to midfield in place of Luongo.

Key player(s)

The front four – Tough to narrow our most important player down to just one at this point. The key to Australia advancing is their ability to continue to create and score quality chances

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan are ranked 95th (to Australia’s 41st) in the FIFA rankings. They have a good recent history at the Asian Cup going out in extra time in the round of 16 four years ago to eventual runners up Korea Republic. In 2011 they mad the semi-finals before succumbing to Australia 0-6.

Their pre-tournament friendlies were not strong with their last friendly a 0-4 loss to Korea Rep, they have a habit of struggling against the best teams in Asia exemplified by the 2018 World Cup Qualifying when they took just 1 point from 4 matches against Iran and Korea Rep to eventually miss out on 3rd place by goal difference.

Key Player

Odil Ahmedov – Their captain and one of the most decorated players in their history, he spent 6 seasons in the Russian Premier League and has found a home in China. He is the central midfield lynchpin around what most of the Uzbek play revolves.

Verdict

A big factor in this match could be the fact that Australia have 2 full days more to recover from their last group game. Australia are building momentum whilst Uzbekistan looked all out by the end of the Japan match such was their desire to top the group.

Uzbekistan also tend to play a more European style of football which will play into the Australian hands.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Australia to win at 1.50+ for 2 units

 BACK – Over 2.5 goals 1.85+ for 1 units

Australia

After a poor 0-1 loss to Jordan in their opening match Australia bounced back to win 3-0 against Palestine. The performance was much improved but, it must be said, against a team in Palestine that offered very little attacking threat.

They now need only a draw to be assured of qualifying for the next phase.

Syria lost 0-2 to Jordan and were unlucky not to get something out of the game. Remarkably they have sacked coach Benrd Stange on the back of the loss suggesting that all is not well within the camp.

Team News

One enforced change with the suspension of Trent Sainsbury. It will be interesting to see if he drops Mark Milligan back to the centre of defence or switches to Matt Jurman. There are likely to be other rotations in the squad and despite scoring his maiden goal Jamie Maclaren may settle for a place on the bench with Andrew Nabbout needing match time, assuming he is fit again.

Key Player

Chris Ikonomidis – Quickly becoming a key member of the team he was clearly man of the match against Palestine and offers something different to his teammates with serious pace and skill to match.

Syria in a Snapshot

Syria are ranked 74th (to Australia’s 41st) in the Fifa rankings, the highest ranking of our group opponents. They held Australia to a 1-1 draw in their “home” Leg of the World Cup Qualifying tie playoff tie, played in Malaysia. They came to Australia for the 2nd Leg and took the lead before ultimately falling to a pair of Tim Cahill goals, the 2nd of which was scored in Extra Time to go out 2-3 on aggregate.

As much as Australia dominated Syria, particularly in Sydney they were good contests and I would expect similar here.

They have had mixed results in recent friendlies losing to China and Krgyzstan but beating Bahrain, Kuwait and Yemen.

A draw likely won’t be enough for Syria and as such I expect Syria to be play the match in a very open manner.

Omar Khribin, the top scorer in World Cup Qualifying played well against Palestine before being dropped for the Jordan match. If given another starting chance here he is likely to be the most likely to cause Australia problems.

Verdict

Australia will look to consolidate on their good performance against Palestine and I expect them to back up that result with a good performance here. A draw will be enough, but they won’t be playing for that and Syria really have to win or it is highly likely they won’t fill one of the best 3rd placed positions.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Over 2.5 goals 1.85+ for 2 units (where 3 units is a maximum bet)

Australia

After looking good in their pre-tournament friendlies Australia were poor in losing 0-1 to Jordan. They dominated possession and field position and yet produced very little by way of attacking threat. Worse still they looked susceptible on the counter and conceded from a set piece where their marking was slack.

They need to find a way to turn possession and field position into quality chances as this team seems to be a little more at home holding their own against better opposition more so than when having to dominate teams themselves.

Having started with a pair of defensive midfield players against Jordan I hope Coach Graham Arnold releases one of the pair to a more advanced position against teams we are going to dominant.

Team News

Jamie Maclaren started up front in place of Andrew Nabbout who continues to be in doubt for this match. What Australia would give for a quality no 9! If fit again I expect Nabbout to start. Josh Risdon is out injured and Rhyan Grant should start which is a positive in my mind.

I also expect, or perhaps hope, that Chris Ikonomidis starts in front of Robbie Kruse as he is far more dynamic in attack.

Tom Rogic must also be starting to feel the pressure of young Mustafa Amini as he has not been at he top of his game for Australia recently.

Key Player

Tom Rogic – As suggested above he really needs to lift for Australia and prove he can break down these stubborn defences, he does it time and again playing for Celtic but we really need him to become the dominant attacking figure for Australia.

Palestine

Palestine are ranked 99th (to Australia’s 49th) in the Fifa rankings 10 places higher than Jordan. They had to go through 2 rounds (rounds 2 and 3) to qualify for the Cup after finishing 3rd in their initial group which included credible draws with UAE and Saudi Arabia before finishing ahead of minnows Maldives and Bhutan in round 3 of qualifying.

They picked up a point in their opening match against Syria despite the Syrian dominance and playing for 22+ minutes with just 10 men. They failed to register a shot on target in the match and will likely spend most of the match against Australia defending very deep.

No 10 Sameh Maraaba is the key to their attack and top scorer from qualifying but their most important player here will be Abdallatif Al Bahdari in central defence who is likely to have to ward off waves of Australian attack.

Verdict

Australia will be desperate for an early goal. They will dominate territory, but can they make it count? Palestine will hold little attacking threat, but can they hold Australia out?

I’m very keen that the Australia will prove too strong here as Palestine really offer no threat. The Asian handicap lies at Australia -1.5 and whilst not a given they should cover.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Australia -1.5 on the Asian Handicap market at 1.8+ for 2 units

Australia

Despite picking up just 1 point against Denmark in the 2018 World Cup, Australia were fair value after being hamstrung by the tactics employed by then coach Bert Van Marwijk. Since then Australia has managed 3 strong friendly wins against Kuwait, Lebanon and most recently Oman scoring 12 goals to 0 along with a good performance in a 1-1 draw with fellow competition contenders Korea Republic. The performances have been typical of Graham Arnold coached teams focusing on a solidity in defence as a hallmark.

Since being part of the Asian Confederation Australia has contested 3 finals tournaments for a quarter final appearance (2007) runner up (2011) and Champion (2015) as host.

Team News

Australia have been devastated by injury in the lead-up to the tournament with Aaron Mooy, Martin Boyle, Matthew Leckie and Daniel Arzani all missing from the expected squad. I expect a 4-1-3-2 line-up in front of Keeper Mat Ryan to look something like Grant, Sainsbury, Degenak, Behich; Milligan or Luongo; Kruse, Mabil, Abini or Rogic; Ikonomidis, Nabbout.

Key Player

Mark Milligan looms as the most important player for Australia in this tournament as he is likely to be cast into the defensive midfield role which will be most important, particularly later in the tournament.

Jordan

Jordan are ranked 109th (to Australia’s 49th) in the Fifa rankings. They were unlucky not to qualify through to the 3rd round of World Cup Qualifying after finishing 2nd to Australian in their Group and having beaten Australia 2-0 in Amman before losing 1-5 in Sydney.

Despite being the leading scorer in both the Asian Cup and World Cup 2018 qualifying Hamza Al Dardoor has been left out of the squad although they have a team that can produce a difficult match for Australia despite their recent form of just the 1 win in 9 against minnows India.

Jordan have qualified for the Asian Cup finals on 3 of the 9 occasions they have entered Asian Cup Qualifying. On 2 of 3 of those appearances at the finals they have reached the quarter finals.

Verdict

I expect Australia and Coach Graham Arnold to be primed to lay down a marker here with a strong performance despite being under-strength.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Australia -1.25 on the Asian Handicap market at 1.8+ for 2 units


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