Australia and South Korea to make it two triumphs on trot
Australia and South Korea secured vital wins in their opening duels and will continue their respective quests to top Pool A in their upcoming clashes against Oman and Kuwait.
With the Socceroos and Taegeuk Warriors both looking good value for victory, the two star-studded teams could set up an enticing final group game against each other to decide who takes pole position.
Kuwait v South Korea
South Korea, odds-on at 4/11 to win, gave the impression they were slowly cranking through the gears against Oman and the Taegeuk Warriors surely have more to give.
Last time out Mainz midfielder and former South Korea skipper Koo Ja-Cheol proved his worth in the Asian Cup yet again. The 25-year-old was top scorer in the 2011 tournament, but this time turned inadvertent provider.
Koo’s stinging low shot allowed Cho Young-Cheol to pounce on the rebound and score his first ever goal for South Korea. Cho is 4/1 to net first and add another to his tally against a Kuwait side that conceded four against Australia, while crafty Koo is 5/4 to get onto the scoresheet himself in the anytime market.
Bolton Wanderers’ Lee Chung-Yong, who is out of contract at the end of this season, is a doubt alongside full back Kim Chang-Soo, with the pair brought off against Oman with injury concerns.
This will only increase the pressure on Koo, and Bayer Leverkusen star Son Heung-Min (4/1 to score last), who were easily the main forward threats for the Taegeuk warriors. Often ponderous in possession, South Korea will need to be more direct and decisive if they are to top Group D.
Now they have warmed up and have such obvious quality at their disposal, however, back the East Asian outfit at 6/1 to score four or more against Kuwait and make a statement to rivals Australia.
The Blue, meanwhile, will need to be bolder and their Asian Cup fate rests squarely in the hands of new boss Nabil Maaloul, with a dose of adventure and abandon the order of the day.
At 6/1 to steal a surprise scalp, Kuwait need to be brave and risk defeat to save their chances of qualification. The Blue must start brightest attacking talents Aziz Mashaan (5/1 to score anytime), who provided the assist for his nation’s only goal against Australia, and tricky attackers Yousef Nasser(10/3) and Bader Al-Mutawa(10/3).
The potent pair of Nasser and Al-Mutawa were only used as substitutes against the Socceroos, but should start if the Blue are to have any chance of troubling South Korea’s backline.
Oman v Australia
Australia and Oman have only met four times before, and the Socceroos have emerged as victors from three of those four battles, which makes them odds-on 4/11 favourites to defeat them again.
Ex-Rangers coach Paul Le Guen’s men are certainly a sturdier outfit than Kuwait, having shut out South Korea until just before the break and almost equalising late on in the game, so should provide the hosts with a sterner test.
The Persian Gulf nation are 6/1 to win, or 13/2 to keep a clean sheet with Wigan Athletic-owned custodian and Oman skipper Ali Al-Habsi protecting the posts. After failing to cling on to South Korea star Koo’s shot last time out, the keeper has a point to prove.
However, the Socceroos’ strikepower and strength should see them through yet again. The quartet of ex-Everton man and main goal threat Tim Cahill (4/1 to score first again), Germany-based talents Mathew Leckie (7/4 to net anytime) and Robbie Kruse (6/5), plus Swindon Town midfielder Massimo Luongo (11/4) dazzled last time out, and should prove too much for Oman to handle.