Having held the Asian Cup for the past 4 years, the Socceroos will now head to the UAE in a bid to defend their title. It won’t be easy however, with sides like Iran, Japan, and South Korea all looking to be stiff competition. The Australian team has undergone major changes in recent years, with Graham Arnold now taking the helm and players like Mile Jedinak and Tim Cahill having retired. With plenty on the line over the next few weeks, let’s take a look at the value on offer in the Asian Cup betting market.
Faced with a relatively easy group B, the Socceroos will have some time to find form before the knockout stages. Brighton Keeper Mat Ryan will remain the starting #1 and provide a strong ability to pass out from the back. Mark Milligan captains the side and will provide extensive experience in defence with his 73 caps. Tom Rogic and Massimo Luongo will be tasked with midfield creation, whilst Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse will need to provide a spark upfront. The easy group draw does open up a lot of things for the Socceroos, who appear to be near locks to make the Semi-Finals. At $9, I think they’re very solid value to defend their title.
Coming off a solid 4 points in the World Cup group stage, the Iranians enter the tournament as the $5 co-favourites. They boast a tantalizing front three, with Azmoun, Teremi, and Ansarifard having already combined to score 55 national team goals. Captain Masoud Shojaie and Vice-Captain Ashkan Dejagah provide a veteran presence in midfield and should protect the back-4 nicely. The defence is also well-marshalled by Ehsan Sahjafi, who already has over 100 caps at just 28 years of age. One of the most well-rounded teams in the tournament, it isn’t hard to see why Iran open as co-favourites.
Having qualified for the Round of 16 in the 2018 World Cup, Japan enter this one in very strong form. Despite being without both Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki, they still boast a ton of talent throughout the side. Yuto Nagatomo and Maya Yoshida form arguably the best defensive duo in the competition, supported capably by Right Back Hiroki Sakai. Genki Haraguchi and Gabu Shibasaki will be tasked with midfield creation, whilst Newcastle United striker Yoshinori Muto will be expected to bang in the goals upfront. With a relatively easy road through Group F, Japan aren’t ones to be counted out.
South Korea $8
Off a solid win against Germany in the 2018 World Cup, South Korea are also in strong form as they enter the Asian Cup. Spurs superstar Heung Min Son definitely headlines this side, receiving capable support from Newcastle midfielder Ki Sung Yeung. Kim Young-Gwon provides a solid option in defence, whilst Forward Ji Dong-won is more than capable of scoring up front. Boasting the best player in the tournament and a very easy group to match, I wouldn’t count out the South Koreans at a tasty $8.
Saudi Arabia $9
I’d be remiss not to give a mention to this very solid Saudi side. They outperformed the Socceroos in World Cup qualifying and are excellent in defence. Waleed Abdullah is a very strong Keeper at this level and is ably protected by Omar Hawsawi and Yasser Al-Shahrani in Defence. A veteran Saudi midfield featuring Yahya Al-Shehir and Salman Al-Faraj should contain most opponents. Whilst they are a bit light on goals, Fahad Al-Muwallad is an exciting prospect on the wing.
Best Bet: Iran at $5
Looking at the overall rosters of the teams, Iran’s is clearly the most well-rounded for me. With that versatile front 3, they should have no trouble scoring against relatively weak defences. They proved they can hang at the most recent World Cup, and I expect a strong display from them here en route to the title.
Value Bet: Australia at $9
Defending champions are usually always motivated and I see no reason why that won’t be the case for the Socceroos here. They still boast what is easily one of the most talented sides in the tournament and have a very easy path to the Semi-Finals. A ton of the players in this squad have a lot to prove and I expect their full effort throughout. At $9, this is well worth a punt.
Each of these sides is comfortably the best team in their respective groups. Getting off to a strong start and winning the group is also the best way for these sides to progress far in the tournament. The best plan of attack is to combine them all together for a tasty $1.88.