The opening match at the 2023 AFC Asian Cup takes place in Lusail on Friday when the defending champions and tournament hosts Qatar get their title defence underway. They take on Lebanon to get the competition started.
Qatar have emerged as one of the leading lights in Asian football over the last five years or so while Lebanon were the lowest ranked draw they could have got from pot three so this would look like a routine win on paper for Qatar.
I think it is fair to say that Qatar came from absolutely nowhere when they won this competition four years ago. Since then they have hosted a World Cup which didn’t go particularly well for them and they have been invited into a number of tournaments around the world, with mixed outcomes. Now they have a chance to show that they are still the top dogs in Asia and look to build a side that can be competitive when the World Cup returns to the Arab area in 2034.
Qatar are a side who have plenty of goals in them. They like to play out from the back in a modern style and are likely to be a much more progressive side than the one which wasn’t a particularly good watch at the Gold Cup under Carlos Quieroz last year. In Almoez Ali they have one of the leading marksmen in Asian football. He has 50 goals in 103 caps for his country and will be the one expected to deliver in front of goal for Qatar.
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Lebanon have qualified for this tournament for the second time in succession. They won one of their three group matches five years ago but missed out on the round of 16 on disciplinary record which would have been a huge disappointment for them. They will return to the competition looking to come through the group stage but they are probably going to need to wait for their final two group games to make a serious impression on the event.
Lebanon do have a player from the English leagues in their ranks as AFC Wimbledon forward Omar Bugiel has been called up and he will look to make an impression here. Lebanon head into the tournament with just one win in their last seven matches in all competitions but they have given themselves a good early position in World Cup qualifying with a couple of draws to start out which will give them encouragement that they can be competitive here.
I think this one is all about the home side. These two teams met in their opening match in the tournament five years ago and Qatar won 2-0 and that is the sort of outcome I am expecting here too. I do think that Qatar will have too much quality for this Lebanon side and actually this is a good way to start the tournament for the defending champions, however I’m not in a rush to bet a 1/3 shot at the initial match of an event.
I will look for a way to find a bit of value on our bet and that comes in the form of Qatar winning to nil. Although their Gold Cup campaign wasn’t much of a runner last year, Qatar did beat Mexico to nil and if they are keeping ‘El Tri’ scoreless you’ve got to think that they will have every chance of doing the same to a Lebanon side who will carry a lot of heart but not really much in the way of quality into battle with them. You can get 17/20 on Qatar winning to nil and that looks acceptable value.
Back Qatar to win to nil for a 3/10 stake at 1.85 with BetVictor