Exciting Iran and UAE to hit top gear against Qatar and Bahrain
Group C favourites Iran and the United Arab Emirates delighted their passionate support with opening wins in Australia.
Now both teams must triumph again, with the Princes of Persia pitched against Gulf Cup of Nations winners Qatar and the White facing belligerent Bahrain, if they are to set up a tantalising pool decider.
UAE V Bahrain
United Arab Emirates got off to an excellent start against Group C rivals Qatar, but will face a tougher test against Bahrain who, despite being ultimately outclassed against Iran, did give the Persian Gulf nation pause for thought.
UAE are odds-on at 3/4 to down their regional rivals, against whom they just best the head-to-head record with 12 wins to eight.
The potent partnership of attacking architect Ali Mabkhout (4/1 to fire home first) and fearsome forward Ahmed Khalil (5/1 to score two or more) impressed against the Maroon, with the dangerous duo bagging a brace each.
Skilful playmaker Omar Abdulrahamn is also 5/2 in the anytime market, and this terrifically talented trio could pose a real threat to Iran’s hopes of topping the pool.
UAE are yet to face a true test defensively, but still leaked a goal against Qatar, so the Red, 4/1 to win, will be aiming to exploit any weakness in what is a must-win match for Marjan Eid’s men.
Bahrain have yet to net in Australia, but exuberant striker Jaycee John Okwunwanne looked the most likely threat last time out and is 14/5 to break the Red’s 2015 Asian Cup duck anytime.
Qatar v Iran
The Princes of Persia, backed by a vocal travelling support, have already shown just why many rate them alongside the more fancied nations of Japan and Australia to lift the Asian Cup.
After a thrilling first game, in which they battled brilliantly with Bahrain, eventually winning 2-0, they are odds-on favourites at 4/6 to defeat Qatar.
The recent scoreline may seem modest, but energetic Iran showed a taste for the spectacular with their highlight reel-worthy goals and also had three efforts ruled offside, so back them at 17/5 to net three or more.
Former Fulham forward Ashkan Dejagah came close to netting last time out and is 7/4 to be on target anytime in this encounter.
Meanwhile, adaptable attackers and goal heroes Ehsan Hajsafi and Masoud Shojaei are 13/2 and 7/1 to strike again first and last respectively.
Iran’s upcoming foes Qatar, meanwhile, have yet to show their talent in the tournament after conceding four against the United Arab Emirates.
The recent Gulf Cup of Nations victors did little to honour that title, with star stopper Qasem Burhan’s blunders in net a blow.
After a disappointing opening loss, the Maroon must show their true colours against the Princes of Persia, who they are 9/2 to dethrone.
Last goal scorer Khalfan Ibrahim netted with an opportunistic chip against UAE and is 10/1 to fire home first again.