Natives will be pleased with the start that Australia have made to the Asian Cup, with the hosts already guaranteed qualification through to the second phase of the competition. Australia and North Korea were the first two teams to reach six points in this years group stage, and the United Arab Emirates will hope to follow suit on Thursday.
Bahrain are bottom of the group and still looking for their first point, after suffering a 2-0 loss to a resilient Iran side. UAE managed to make extremely light work of future world cup hosts Qatar, winning 4-1 behind a brace from Ahmed Khalil.
The interesting thing about the Asian Cup from my point of view is that I’d seen very little of several of these teams before the tournament, but I’ve kept a close eye on all the games so far.
UAE are by no means a strong group and they’ll probably struggle against all but Uzbekistan if they do make the knockout stages, but I do at least expect them to achieve that.
Iran are not going to drop points against Qatar, but we’ll get to that game soon. That leaves the UAE in an extremely good position going in to this game, as just a draw will likely secure qualification.
The one thing in Bahrain’s favour here is that since entering the competition for the first time in 2004, they’ve never lost three consecutive games in 90 minutes. They have, however, lost at two of three group games in the past two competitions.
Despite their previous resilience in the competition, they didn’t strike me as a particularly talented group against Iran. The Iranians are known for being a pretty tough team to break down, but I just never felt like Bahrain were in anyway chalenging Iran.
UAE can definitely say the same about their game, but they were asked to show some character after falling behind. The UAE have won the last three meetings between the sides, scoring 11 goals in the process.
I feel the group leaders will have enough pace and skill in forward areas to cause Bahrain the necessary problems. Despite setting out in an attacking formation against Iran, they didn’t produce anywhere near enough attempts at goal for my liking.
As soon as the second goal went in, Bahrain became unnecessarily physical and lost control of the game completely, surprisingly only picking up one yellow card from 29 fouls.
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