Japan aim to extend perfect start against Ray Wilkins’ Jordan
Japan continue their defence of the Asian Cup as a competitive Group D comes to a close. The Blue Samurai have enjoyed a 100 per cent record so far, but Ray Wilkins’ Jordan will harbour hopes of spoiling Javier Aguirre’s fine start.
The Chivalrous need to triumph against the reigning champions to stand a chance of progressing from this tightly contested pool, but Japan still need to cement qualification and top spot themselves.
Iraq certainly stand a better chance of making the quarter-finals as they prepare to face minnows Palestine, who are still without a win.
Japan v Jordan
The Blue Samurai, odds-on favourites at 2/7 with Coral to take all three points, will face United Arab Emirates in the quarter-finals if, as expected, they triumph against Jordan to ensure top spot.
Japan have so far shown they can adapt their tactics to their opponents, putting in a calm and composed performance against Iraq last time out, in contrast to their previous 4-0 thumping of Palestine.
Aguirre’s East Asian outfit will be aiming to end the group stage with three successive victories, which is certainly achievable, and Japan are available at 9/2 to net four or more again.
It is testament to talisman Keisuke Honda’s talent that he has been one of the Blue Samurai’s best players, despite being yet to hit top gear.
The AC Milan man’s tempered but effective showings so far, including two sweetly converted spot kicks, should be a warning sign, so back Honda at 6/5 to be a hero anytime against Jordan, or 7/2 to draw first blood.
Shinji Kagawa is yet to get on the scoresheet in this competition, but is growing increasingly closer to finding the net.
The former Manchester United midfielder is 11/2 to close the scoring and ruin fellow ex-Red Devil Wilkins’ chances of qualification, while prolific namesake Okazaki is 4/1 to bag a brace or better.
Meanwhile, evergreen midfield schemer Yasuhito Endo, nicknamed Japan’s ‘mole in the hole’, is 13/5 in the anytime market to strike home and celebrate what is set to be his 151st cap.
The modest deep lying playmaker can now surpass German legend Lothar Matthaeus’ cap haul, but believes “going level with Matthaeus is a bit of an insult to Matthaeus. But winning so many caps is obviously something I can be proud of.”
Wilkins’ side, meanwhile, are outside chances to progress after smashing beleaguered Palestine 5-1 last time out, but will now need the Knights to do them a favour against Iraq.
Quick on the counter, the Chivalrous are 7/1 to snatch a surprise victory, but are a much more likely to split the spoils at 7/2.
Top Asian Cup scorer Hamza Al-Dardour will be the Middle Eastern side’s main threat, after the fleet-footed forward announced his presence on the big stage by putting a fantastic four past Palestine, so back him at 10/1 to pounce first again.
Iraq v Palestine
Still favourites to progress from Pool D, the Lions of Mesopotamia are odds-on at 1/5 to down Palestine.
The Knights have yet to record a victory in the competition, but have not let bad results dampen morale, with their travelling faithful passionately celebrating their first ever Asian Cup goal last time out.
A triumph against Iraq would surely send the crowd into delirium, and plucky minnows Palestine are 8/1 to make it happen or 9/2 to draw.
Radhi Shenaishel’s side should still emerge victorious however, as they face a struggling side that have so far conceded nine goals in just two games, making them 11/4 to score four or more.
Swindon Town star Yaser Kasim has been the only predator to net for the Lions of Mesopotamia so far, and will be keen to add to his tally and set up a potentially thrilling quarter-final clash with bitter rivals Iran.