The AFC Asian Cup continues on Friday when the attention heads back to Groups C and D where a couple of the big nations in this part of the world look to secure their progress through to the knockout stages.
Japan and Iran are the two big teams on show but the other four sides taking to the pitch still have plenty to play for with four best third placed teams going through to the round of 16 so we should be in for a good day of football.
Iraq vs Japan (11.30)
The opening match of the Friday action will see the two biggest sides in Group D battling it out when Iraq takes on Japan with the winner likely to push on and win the group after both won their first game in the competition.
Japan will be warm order here but they were 2-1 down to Vietnam at one point in their first match so they will be looking to show that they are much more solid at the back and establish themselves as the pre-event favourites they were slated as. Iraq could offer a real challenge here. They were excellent in their opening match, albeit against Indonesia, and with three points in the bag already they don’t really have a lot to lose here. I would imagine we’ll get a flowing game here. I wouldn’t want to trust Japan after that first game but I don’t really want to oppose them either so I’ll leave this one alone.
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Vietnam vs Indonesia (14.30)
The second match of the day sees the action remaining in Group D where the two lower ranked sides battle it out when Vietnam look to build on an encouraging first game against Japan when they take on Indonesia.
Indonesia fought hard against Iraq in their opening match but were overpowered in the end and you would imagine this one will follow suit too. There was a point in their first match where Vietnam were in control against Japan and had they got to half time in front they could have caused all sorts of panic within the Japanese setup but when Japan had to turn it on they did and ran out relatively comfortable winners. On the evidence of the opening games the even money on Vietnam to win this would look a good bet but the whole dynamic around this one is completely different so I’m not rushing to back them even though we could look back on them at even money after the game thinking it was a bit of a gift.
Hong Kong vs Iran (17.30)
The last match of the day sees the action heading to Group C where the powerhouse of Iran will be looking to make the knockout stages of the competition when they go up against the lowest ranked side in the group in Hong Kong.
I mentioned going into the tournament that this is a much more attacking Iran side than we have seen at the last two World Cup competitions and we saw evidence of that in their opener when they took care of Palestine in pretty ruthless fashion, a result that looked even better when the UAE couldn’t beat Palestine on Thursday. Hong Kong are next in line for Iran and I don’t expect them to put up too much in the way of a challenge. These two met in the opening match of World Cup qualifying in November and Iran won 4-0 and I wouldn’t be surprised if with the short turnaround they win this even better than that. They have a lot of attacking depth to their squad these days, so much so that Sardar Azmoun was only on the bench to begin the win over Palestine. The longer this one goes on the more dominant I expect Iran to be and the 11/10 that they score more than 3.5 goals, something they have done in seven of their 14 matches since the start of 2023, looks good to me.
Back Iran – Over 3.5 goals for a 3/10 stake at 2.10 with Betfair