AFC Group B is the FIFA World Cup qualifying pool on which to focus during the latest round of preliminary matches and the best bet is Japan to win to nil versus Thailand.
Tuesday’s AFC Group B game is a rematch of September’s clash in Thailand that Japan won in a hack canter. Five days after losing its first AFC Group B game 1-2 at home to the United Arab Emirates, Japan put on an exhibition to beat Thailand 2-0 in Bangkok courtesy of goals either side of half time. Japan has 65 per cent of the ball in its first AFC Group B match against Thailand and, according to the official data, the Samurai Blue had 10 attempts on target to the one of the War Elephants. Thailand goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan had a blinder between the sticks otherwise Japan would have scored half a dozen unanswered goals because the War Elephants could not cope with the Samurai Blue’s fast movement.
BetVictor is offering odds of -128 about Japan winning to nil versus Thailand in Saitama, which is the home of Urawa, Japan’s best supported club. The state of AFC Group B means that Japan cannot afford any more mistakes having dropped three home points to the United Arab Emirates last year. Thailand is a very poor national team that FIFA ranks at 127th in the world and the World Football Elo Ratings has listed at 110th. For the record, Japan is ranked 51st and 22nd respectively by the aforementioned number crunchers.
Saudi Arabia is top of the AFC Group B ladder following six rounds and one thinks that the Green Falcons will improve to 16 points with a home success over Iraq on Tuesday.
September’s reverse AFC Group B game between Iraq and Saudi Arabia resulted in a 2-1 away victory for the Green Falcons. Well, it was kind of an away victory for Saudi Arabia – Iraq has to play its home matches outside its own country and its AFC Group B game versus Saudi Arabia took place in Malaysia. Saudi Arabia was unimpressive in defeating Iraq – the Green Falcons required a couple of late penalty kicks – but Bert van Marwijk’s charges have improved during the AFC Group B competition and they deservedly lead the way currently.
Saudi Arabia is ranked 57th and 55th by FIFA and the World Football Elo Ratings respectively; Iraq is 122nd and 82nd respectively according to those aforementioned bodies and the glory days of its 2007 AFC Asian Cup are long gone. Iraq has lost each of its last three matches against Saudi Arabia and odds of -167 with Betfair and Ladbrokes about that sequence extending to four are more than acceptable.
Finally, Australia will entertain the United Arab Emirates in the game of the AFC Group B round on Tuesday and under two and a half goals is worth a bet at odds of +103 with Marathonbet, largely due to the shot-shy Socceroos.
Four of Australia’s six AFC Group B matches have gone under two and a half goals and it is clear from watching the boys in green and gold that the Socceroos do not have a reliable striker. Tomi Juric started up front for Australia versus Iraq last week and he is a poor man’s Mark Viduka. Australia coach Ange Postecoglou is so short of quality forwards that he may choose to start 37-year-old Tim Cahill in place of Juric against the United Arab Emirates. No-one has scored more goals for Australia than Cahill but it has been five years since he played his last English Premier League game and it is an indictment on the Socceroos that he is probably his nation’s best option in the central attacking role.
Three of the six AFC Group B matches featuring the United Arab Emirates have gone under two and a half goals, including September’s 1-0 win to Australia in Abu Dhabi. Finally, three of Australia’s most recent AFC Group B goals have been scored from 12 yards by penalty king Mile Jedinak.
Japan to beat Thailand to Nil
Tuesday 28th March, 11:35 GMT
Saudi Arabia to beat Iraq
Tuesday 28th March, 18:30 GMT
Australia v UAE – Under 2.5 Goals
Tuesday 28th March, 10:00 GMT