Asian Cup hosts Australia clash with China in quarter-finals
Hosts Australia and fellow tournament favourites South Korea kick off the Asian Cup 2015 quarter-finals with clashes against upstarts China and Uzbekistan respectively.
If the Socceroos can sweep aside Team Dragon, a potential semi-final sensation against Japan may await, but tenacious China have so far proven to be far from cannon fodder.
Meanwhile, the Taegeuk Warriors take on White Wolves Uzbekistan after topping Group A and will be expecting to progress yet again.
China v Australia
The Socceroos came under-fire for resting key players in their Group A decider against South Korea, which saw the Taegeuk Warriors steal top spot.
Now Ange Postecoglou’s men must justify that decision by putting in an energetic performance against quarter-final competitors China.
As hosts, with a fervent backing from home support, Australia are understandable odds-on favourites with Coral at 8/13 to triumph, but their East Asian foes are certainly capable of putting a spanner in the works.
Originally third-favourites to win their pool, ambitious China upset the apple cart with three wins in a row, shocking Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan along the way.
Now great value at 9/2 to surprise again by sinking the Socceroos, Alain Perrin’s men can take confidence from their previous giant killings.
Team Dragon kept their first choice XI for what was a dead rubber encounter with already eliminated North Korea, but their victory allowed emerging star Sun Ke to increase his tally to three goals after bagging a brace.
The rampant right winger seems to have secured a starting spot due to his nose for goal, so back the 25-year old at 4/1 to continue his purple patch and net anytime again.
Australia, meanwhile, will be without suspended defender Matthew Spiranovic, whose partnership with Trent Sainsbury has been crucial so far.
Postecoglou can, however, welcome back skipper Mile Jedinak, who is set to return from his injury niggles.
The Socceroos have scored a sensational eight goals in three games so far, with a variety of players from all over the pitch stepping up to contribute.
Tim Cahill is still his nation’s main threat, making him 9/2 to open the floodgates or 9/5 in the anytime market, but young striker Tomi Juric (5/1 to fire home last) has also illustrated his potential, as has Bundesliga-based forward Robbie Kruse (7/1 to bag a brace or better).
South Korea v Uzbekistan
The Taegeuk Warriors have suffered several injury set-backs so far this tournament, but have still managed to emerge as Group A winners ahead of Australia.
Now evens to down Uzbekistan, South Korea may be able to field talisman Son Heung-Min (9/4 to net anytime), who missed his nation’s crunch clash with the Socceroos due to illness.
The Bayer Leverksuen star’s return may be just the boost Uli Stielike requires as, whilst his team have been efficient, effective and well-organised to win three in a row, they are yet to truly dazzle.
“If you look at the statistics from the Australia game, we missed a lot of passes and missed a lot of chances, so by introducing Son Heung-Min we hope we can be more dangerous,” stated Stielike.
South Korea skipper and Swansea City deep-lying schemer Ki Sung-Yeung (11/2 to close the scoring) illustrated his quality by making the difference with a perfect pass to set up striker Lee Jung-Hyup (2/1 in the anytime market) against the Socceroos and should shine again.
Uzbekistan have also underwhelmed so far in this edition of the Asian Cup, but are 11/4 to turn that around by vanquishing the Taegeuk Warriors.
A narrow win over North Korea and a disappointing defeat to China demand reaction. Captain Server Djeparov and striker Igor Sergeev are the White Wolves’ most likely predators and are 9/1 and 7/1 to net first and last respectively.