The AFC Asian Cup continues on Sunday with another triple header of action where two genuine contenders for the title get their campaign underway in Qatar as we see the start of Groups C and D in the competition.
Japan went into the event as the pre-tournament favourites and they get the show underway on Sunday while Iran are former champions who will be out to put a marker down. Four other sides will look to show they are here for business too.
Japan vs Vietnam (11.30)
The first match of the day is the opening game in Group D and sees the pre-event favourites Japan looking to get up and running when they go up against a Vietnam side managed by the experienced Philippe Troussier.
He has done many an Africa Cup of Nations with the likes of Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso so he will know all about these things. He has been involved in the Vietnam setup for a while so you get the impression they will be a tight knit squad but whether they have the quality to beat arguably the best team in Asia right now remains to be seen. One thing which will give Vietnam some hope is there is no Kaoru Mitoma for Japan so they won’t have to deal with him but there is still a lot of talent in this Japan squad. I expect Japan to win this and win it well but the odds are far too cramped and handicaps too big for me to be getting involved with in a tournament opener for both sides.
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UAE vs Hong Kong (14.30)
The second match of the day is the first one in Group C where the second lowest ranked team in the competition in Hong Kong go up against the former champions United Arab Emirates who should have plenty of support in Al Rayyan with them.
UAE lost out in a friendly to Oman ahead of the tournament and that was their first defeat in 10 matches so they will be feeling confident when going up against a side who could be a little out of their depth at this level. Paulo Bento generally gets his teams playing a good style but also he comes with plenty of passion so this UAE side are certainly going to be up for this one. Hong Kong are managed by a Norwegian who was a striker in his playing days and teams managed by strikers usually get the ball forward and have a go so you would imagine this will be an entertaining contest but once again the odds are quite tight for a tournament opener.
Iran vs Palestine (17.30)
The last match of the third day of action in the tournament comes from Al Rayyan where Iran will look to lay down a marker for the title when they go up against a Palestine side who may not be as bad as you might think on the face of it.
Palestine aren’t blessed with huge attacking talent but in World Cup qualifying in the last international break they only went down 1-0 to a powerful Australia side but the problem that they have is they haven’t scored in their last five matches and you wonder how they are going to punch holes in this talented Iran side. When you think of Iran you think back to the last couple of World Cups where they have been a team who look to keep it tight under Carlos Quieroz but they have evolved into an offensive machine under Amir Ghalenoei, scoring 40 goals in their 13 matches since the last World Cup. They have plenty of dangers in attacking areas and some good backups too and at some point I expect them to find their way through here and win the game. They are plenty short enough to win the game but with Palestine struggling in front of goal I think the 5/6 on Iran to win to nil is perfectly acceptable.
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