Asian Cup Prediction: Here We Go Again
If you thought there weren’t enough regional tournaments in 2004, the Asian Cup kicks off in China on Saturday. Sixteen teams from across the vast continent will battle it out until the final on August 7th. Clearly, it has been a scheduling nightmare (why start another tournament when Copa America is in full swing and the Olympics are around the corner?). But the Asian Football Confederation has finally come to its senses, scheduling the next Asian Cup for 2007 to avoid further clashes. With the African Cup, the European Championship, Copa America and the Olympics all taking place in 2004, soccer fans have little to look forward to next summer apart from North America’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. Please, curb your enthusiasm.
Here’s a look at the main contenders:
Japan: The defending champions have won 2 of the last 3 Asian Cups and are one of the favourites this year. But they are fielding a severely depleted side this time around, with only three forwards in the Japanese roster.
South Korea: The South Koreans won the first two Asian Cups. Since then, however, they’ve reached the final three times and failed to capitalize. South Korean lost to Iran in 1972, Kuwait in 1980, and they lost to the Saudis on penalties in 1988.
Saudi Arabia: Impressively, the Saudis have reached the finals of the last five Asian Cups, winning it in 1984, 1988 and 1996. But their best performances have been at Asian Cups held in the Middle East. They could struggle being far away from home.
China: This is a rapidly improving team and justifiably one of the favourites. Home advantage is huge in this tournament: the host team has reached the final in seven of the 12 Asian Cups held since 1956. This could be China’s year.
Thailand and Indonesia are both extremely weak sides. But one of the ‘stans from Central Asia could turn heads at this tournament. Keep an eye on the
It’s best to avoid betting in the group stages of this tournament. But if you must have a wager on the early games, these three stand out:
China vs. Bahrain: Take the Draw (+260)
Saudi Arabia vs. Turkmenistan: Take Saudi Arabia (-165)
Iraq vs. Uzbekistan: Take Uzbekistan (+280)
We’ll stick to Copa America this week as the quarter-finals get underway. After bringing in nearly $9,000 with our Euro 2004 program, we’re 4-2 at Copa America so far. That’s $2,080 profit for a dime player.
This week’s picks:
Game Date: Friday, July 17, 2004 5:00 PM
Matchup: Peru vs. Argentina
Selection: Play on Peru
There’s great value in the hosts who have the home crowd and high elevation on their side. Peru and
Argentina are two of the most powerful teams offensively at Copa America. But Argentina have a weak defence and they’ve been inconsistent in this tournament, despite appearances on paper. Argentina have only won two of four games in this series when playing in Peru. This match is a pick ‘em at best, so we’ll take this fantastic price. Take Peru -0.5/+260
Game Date: Friday, July 17, 2004 8:45 PM
Matchup: Colombia vs. Costa Rica
Selection: Play on Colombia
Costa Rica are through to the quarter-finals despite scoring only 3 goals and conceding 6 in their three group games. But make no mistake, this is a very weak team -- possibly the worst team at Copa America. Colombia finished top of their group with an unbeaten record. They have a great defence that conceded only two goals, both against Peru in questionable circumstances. They also have an excellent midfield. The Colombians play five men in midfield with one striker. Costa Rica will have a difficult time penetrating Colombia’s midfield, and they will face a sustained Colombian attack from all angles as a result. Colombia are 4-1-0 L5 and they are 6-3-1 L10. Costa Rica have only two wins in their last 10 games on foreign soil, with a dismal 2-1-7 record. Colombia have conceded only 6 goals L10. Meanwhile, Costa Rica have conceded 15 goals L10. These teams have met four times before, with the Colombians dominating Costa Rica 4-0-0 and outscoring them 11-3. Expect another easy win for Colombia. Take Colombia -0.5/-120
Game Date: Saturday, July 18, 2004 4:00 PM
Matchup: Paraguay vs. Uruguay
Selection: Play on Uruguay
There’s not much between these teams, which is fitting since they’re the only countries in the world with names ending in ‘guay’. The Paraguayans play very defensively, and that has paid dividends for them in this tournament. But that could easily backfire if Uruguay score first in this game. Paraguay’s undefeated record included a close 1-0 win over Costa Rica (arguably the worst team at Copa America); a draw with Chile (another unspectacular side); and a 2-1 win over Brazil in a meaningless game for the Brazilians. Uruguay, conversely, faced tough group opposition, losing to Argentina and drawing with Mexico. But the Uruguayans still managed to score twice against both of those teams, and score an average of 2 gpg. Paraguay average only 1.3 gpg. Uruguay are a perfect 3-0-0 against Paraguay in Copa America matches, outscoring Paraguay 5-1. Take Uruguay -0.5/+190