Qatar has had just about the most impressive 2019 Asian Cup performance that any squad could hope for. The “Maroons” are 6-0-0 and have the leading scorer in the tournament. The goalkeeper and defense have kept nothing but clean sheets. Last but not least, the Qataris have the best “statement” win over the tournament, a 1-0 win over a Premiership-boosted South Korea side in the quarterfinals.
For all of that, the 2022 World Cup host has not impressed London or Las Vegas handicappers enough. Qatar is a 9/4 underdog against Japan when the 2 countries meet on Friday to decide the Asian Cup title.
The meeting is full of epic narratives. Japan has never lost in an Asian Cup Final, but the Samurai Blue face the toughest backline of the field in the deciding match. The Japanese are adored for their brave performances in the World Cup, while the Qataris are hoping to send a warning shot across the bow at any FIFA sides who are drawn into a group against the WC hosts in just over 3 years’ time.
Meanwhile, Samurai Blue skipper Hajime Moriyasu can reach an historic milestone as the first man to win an Asian Cup as a player and as a coach. But Japan’s roster has turned-over since Russia ’18 and may not be quite as strong as supporters had once hoped. At least the squad enjoyed some relief after a series of close-shave victories when Werder Breman forward Yuya Osako scored twice to give the Japanese a 2-0 lead over Iran in the semifinal on Monday.
Japan would go on to win 3-0, while Qatar humiliated host UAE 4-0 in Tuesday’s semifinal.
Qatar’s hopes to score on the well-coached Samurai Blue will rest largely on Almoez Ali, a 22-year-old lightning rod of an attacker for whom the 2019 Asian Cup has been a coming-out party on the senior level. Ali leads the tournament with 8 goals. Why exactly is Qatar a 9/4 underdog?
Bookies also expect a cautious well-defended match as BetOnline’s O/U line is a paltry (2) total goals.
Photo from Twitter.