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The AFC qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup three years from now resumes on Thursday and one thinks that the bookmaking fraternity is paying too much respect to Hong Kong, which is away to the Maldives in Group C action.
Hong Kong has given itself a chance of reaching the next round of the AFC qualifying competition for the FIFA World Cup having held China to a 0-0 draw in Shenzhen two months ago. One of Hong Kong’s three AFC Group C victories was a 2-0 home win over the Maldives in June but that game turned on two goals in the space of five second-half minutes and two of the three directly comparable form lines between the teams suggest that they are of a very similar standard.
The Maldives kicked off its AFC Group C campaign with a 0-1 home loss to the section’s leader, Qatar, and it took until second-half stoppage time for the Maroons to get on top of the Red Snappers. Hong Kong lost its AFC Group C home match versus Qatar 2-3 but the Maroons led 3-0 at the 84-minute mark before they gave away two late consolation goals. One rates the Maldives no worse than equal to Hong Kong on those results, with a case for the Red Snappers being superior.
Bhutan has hosted both the Maldives and Hong Kong in AFC Group C. Bhutan lost 3-4 to the Maldives but the game was all over as a contest by half time – the Red Snappers led 3-0 at the break – and the score was 4-0 to the visitors before the hosts scored three goals in the 85th minute and later. Hong Kong got the job done against Bhutan but it made extremely heavy weather of beating the AFC Group C whipping boy, relying on an 89th-minute goal to snatch a 1-0 victory. There were times during that match when it looked as though Bhutan would post its first win over a team not called Sri Lanka since 2008. Again, one rates the Maldives no worse than equal to Hong Kong on those results and, given the manner of their respective victories, arguably better.
Betting is all about obtaining value and one cannot rate Hong Kong as a legitimate odds-on favourite for Thursday’s AFC Group C game in the Maldives. About 20 places separate Hong Kong and the Maldives on both the World Football Elo Ratings and the FIFA World Ranking but, with the Red Snappers enjoying home advantage, that gaps tightens. One thinks that Hong Kong merits the slightest of favouritism because – and only because – its FIFA World Cup dream is alive whereas Bhutan is out of the qualification race.
It is too much of a leap of faith to back the Maldives at odds of 19/4 5.75 +475 4.75 4.75 -0.21 with BetVictor to beat Hong Kong on Thursday because the Red Snappers lost the reverse fixture 0-2 and they are not the most frequent of winners. However, one is quite keen about backing the Maldives with a one-goal start, an option that BetVictor is offering at odds of 7/5 2.40 +140 1.40 1.40 -0.71 . The Maldives made a smart appointment when it hired former New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert 24 hours following its 0-3 loss at China and the ex-All Whites manager has led the Red Snappers to one win from his first two matches in charge.
One watched the bulk of Hong Kong’s 1-0 AFC Group C victory over Bhutan on Bet365’s website – one did not have anything better to do that day and one was interested to see how bad the Dragon Boys were – and it is no exaggeration to say that a draw would have been a fairer result than the actual one.
Maldives +1 to beat Hong Kong
12th November 10:50 GMT
Odds: 7/5 2.40 +140 1.40 1.40 -0.71