Samurai Blue to Fall on their Swords in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia could qualify for the World Cup at Australia's expense.

Saudi Arabia could qualify for the World Cup at Australia's expense.

With one round of AFC Group B remaining, Japan has booked its spot in next year’s FIFA World Cup tournament as the Samurai Blue cannot be caught at the top of the ladder following their 2-0 home win over Australia on Thursday. Saudi Arabia and Australia are tied on 16 points but the Green Falcons have a goal difference two superior to that of the Socceroos. The United Arab Emirates can, theoretically, snatch second place in AFC Group B from Saudi Arabia and Australia but the odds of that happening are enormous.

On Tuesday, Australia will play against AFC Group B’s worst team, Thailand, in Melbourne and, according to early betting markets, bookmakers expect the Socceroos to win by three goals. If Australia does defeat Thailand by a three-goal margin then Saudi Arabia will tackle Japan in Jeddah knowing that any home victory over the Samurai Blue will send it to the FIFA World Cup at the expense of the Socceroos.

There is little love for Australia in the Asian Football Confederation and one is surprised that Saudi Arabia is available at odds of +188  with BoyleSports and SunBets to beat Japan in Tuesday’s FIFA World Cup qualifier.

Saudi Arabia is 8-2-0 in its last 10 FIFA World Cup home matches since losing 1-3 to Australia in November 2011 – that was a very different Socceroos side to the one that barely got a sight of Japan’s goal in Saitama. Japan is 7-2-0 in its last nine FIFA World Cup away games but its toughest road trips – Australia and Iraq – were the two matches that end all square. Saudi Arabia has everything for which to play, whereas Japan has only pride on the line and many of its stars will be thinking about their clubs.

A demotivated Japan running out in Jeddah to face a fully wound-up Saudi Arabia is Australia’s worst nightmare. The disdain for Australia is the AFC is palpable, with many Asian countries detesting the presence of the Socceroos in their region because they are competitive in major events and they take up limited qualifying berths. Very few AFC participants will shed tears if Australia missed out on second place in AFC Group B behind Japan and do not forget that the Samurai Blue are fierce rivals of the Socceroos.

If simply backing Saudi Arabia to get the better of Japan at underdog odds does not float your boat then you take a punt on the Green Falcons beating the Samurai Blue to nil at odds of +400  with Bet365 and BoyleSports. One is expecting Japan to take it easy versus Saudi Arabia and another factor worth considering is the negative energy surrounding Samurai Blue coach Vahid Halihodzic, who has not won over fans in the Land of the Rising Sun despite boasting a 20-9-3 record.

AFC and FIFA really ought to schedule games such as those involving Saudi Arabia and Australia so that they kick off simultaneously but, in the circumstances, the difference in start times just serves to increase one’s enthusiasm for backing the Green Falcons to win, perhaps to nil.

Tips Summary

Saudi Arabia to beat Japan
Tuesday 5th September, 18:30 GMT
Odds:  +188

Saudi Arabia to win to nil
Tuesday 5th September, 18:30 GMT
Odds:  +400