January 8, 2019

AFC Asian Cup Match Previews – 9th January Wednesday

Japan v Turkmenistan

Japan managed to remain consistent under manager Hajime Moriyasu since the team’s exit from the 2018 World Cup. They managed to claim four wins and a draw in their previous five outings prior to their Asian Cup campaign which should put them in quite a confident and good mood as they take on Turkmenistan on Wednesday. This will be the first head-to-head clash between these two, with Japan coming into this fixture as the heavy favourites.

Japan already beat the likes of Costa Rica, Panama, Uruguay, and Kyrgyzstan in comfortable victories during the international friendlies. They managed to display convincing performances especially in the final third, with only Venezuela managed to hold them which resulted in a 1-1 draw in November. One of the most successful teams in the Asian Cup, Japan would most definitely try to take back the crown from Australia this season. They won the title for at least four occasions, with their latest victory was way back in 2011. They are one of the best teams in Asia at the moment and several of their players are playing for top-flight European football leagues.

Turkmenistan, on the other hand, will want to put a similar challenge against Japan, but the difference is in the quality of performance despite their fine form lately. They were able to beat Singapore, Chinese Taipei, and Afghanistan; however, taking on a side like Japan will be a tough challenge, especially after their upsetting loss against Bahrain last season.  Being one of the most vulnerable side in the Group F, Turkmenistan have slim chances of coming out victorious against their Wednesday opponents. But considering their form lately, they might just stand a chance.

Uzbekistan v Oman

Uzbekistan came so close in securing the 4th round in the World Cup qualifiers in 2017 but have fallen short despite an impressive finish and it seems like they’ve been struggling to make up for it since then. They will now open the Asian Cup against Oman, looking forward to turning their poor form to a better one after seeing their three-match undefeated streak come to an end when they were defeated by Korea Republic in November.

Despite being termed as one of the weakest due to not having a great history in football, Oman were able to qualify for the fourth time in the Asian Cup. However, they never experienced qualifying beyond the group stage fixtures. They played nine matches in the competition but only came out successful in two. After winning against UAE in the Gulf Cup, Oman are currently in high spirits and riding high on confidence, though they will come into this match without their key player Ali Al-Habsi who has been ruled out after acquiring an injury.

In the meantime, Uzbekistan are the second best team in the Group F and have a great opportunity to qualify for the quarterfinals. They played 24 matches at the tournament so far, winning in 11 of them and losing one. They managed to beat Korea DPR, Qatar, and held Lebanon to a goalless draw in their previous three outings. They will come into this fixture looking forward to do damage and dominate Oman.

Moreover, Oman were able to beat their Wednesday opponents in all of their previous three head-to-head clashes while Uzbekistan last defeated Oman back in September 2001, thrashing the latter in a 5-0 victory. Uzbekistan is set to face a thriller against Oman which can decide who among them will be the in the second and third places in the group F. Both teams are in good form at the moment and they will definitely enjoy the chances of outshining one another on Wednesday.

Qatar v Lebanon

Qatar will take on Lebanon for their Asian Cup clash, looking to bounce back following their two underwhelming performances last year December, when both Algeria and Iran came out victorious and ended their four-match undefeated streak. Lebanon never won against Qatar in their last six head-to-head fixtures played so far while Qatar recorded five wins and one draw, which included a 5-0 thrashing in their previous matchup in the 2014 season.

Qatar were able to prove themselves as very tough opponents against the big teams beforehand and they were able to beat Switzerland hold Iceland to a draw in November last year, as well as dominated against both Jordan and Kyrgyzstan in December. Felix Sanchez will now want his team to show off early on so they could prove that they are able to proceed to the knockout stages which shows how confident they are in coming into this fixture.  

On the other hand, Lebanon will have to cause an upset since their recent display of form is far from impressive. They only held Oman and Uzbekistan to draws during their previous five outings while also failing to come out successful to Australia, Kuwait, and Bahrain just recently. They’re one of the teams that are the least favourites. However, Lebanon does have star forward Hassan Mattouk who is just one goal away from being Lebanon’s all-time top goal-scorer. Lebanon will surely depend on him in order for them to win against Qatar.

By @EliaasMJ

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