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One of the biggest tournaments in global football this year kicks-off in Melbourne, Australia, tomorrow (Friday) night – not that you’d know it by the limited coverage in the local media. However, the lack of coverage suits us just fine as we’ve been working hard to find what makes all 16 teams tick and where the best value lies so follow The Inside Word over the next three weeks for the most comprehensive betting coverage of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. To kick-off our coverage, check out these tips for punters to consider before parting with their hard-earned on any Asian Cup games.
Exploit the gulf in knowledge
For the most part, the players and teams participating in this event are pretty much unknown to the betting public. Aside from the occasional friendly against the host nation, only the most astute and hard-working punters have taken the time to study even the basic of what makes a side like Uzbekistan, or Qatar, or North Korea tick. What style of football do they play? Has their lead-up form been promising? Are there any key injuries? Most of this information is easily accessible via the web and will provide you with an instant advantage over the bulk of the market. Even the bookies will be found out by the handful of Asian football experts who know these teams inside and out.
Respect the FIFA rankings
According to the bookies, this tournament is a four-horse race comprising Japan, Australia, South Korea and Iran. Appropriately, three of those countries are ranked the best three in the Asian confederation – Iran in 51st, Japan in 54th and South Korea in 69th. The fourth – Australia – is way down in 100th spot and ranked only 10th best in Asian football. We acknowledge the value home-field advantage offers but, somehow, the Aussies are priced clear second favourites at $4.00. The bookies know they’ll get a flood of money at any price on the home team and they’ll clean up. The simplest advice we can offer is back the other three to win the tournament outright, and you’ll be guaranteed a profit.
… and respect weighted rankings even more
FIFA’s weighted rankings provide at least some measure by which we can compare apples with apples. The basic logic of these calculations is simple: any team that does well in world football wins points, which enable it to climb the world ranking. A team’s total number of points over a four-year period is determined by adding the average number of points gained from matches during the past 12 months and the average number of points gained from matches older than 12 months. Strength of schedule isn’t considered but these rankings show a trend of results. Australia’s weighted rankings for the past six months are historically low for both the nation and within the federation, while Qatar look decent value based on their weighted performances.
Watch the weather
We spoke about the importance of the weather conditions extensively throughout the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, and they will be no less important here. Although this tournament features just 16 teams, the finalists will have played five times before taking to the field to decide the title. During the group stage, all teams will play three games in as little as seven days. The Australian summer can be brutal, with afternoon thunderstorms and high humidity common in Sydney and Brisbane. Melbourne’s summer temperatures can vary wildly from cool days in the low-20Cs to blistering heat in the mid-40s. Follow carefully the conditions in which teams have played as it may provide a significant advantage later on the schedule.
Don’t forget to take a close look at the national and international club fixtures as they’ll play in a role in the preparedness of the 16 teams contesting this event. For instance, north-east Asian nations like China, South Korea and Japan wrapped up their league commitments at the end of November so, expect for a handful of players plying their trade in Europe, have been able to focus entirely on their Asian Cup commitments. Most Gulf leagues are mid-season, as is Australia’s domestic A-League. However, we’re marking up the Gulf nations slightly on the basis that they’ve just played a mini-version of the Asian Cup in their biennial Gulf Cup of Nations.
Home advantage limited
There’s an aspect to this tournament that is difficult to define but it deserves mention. Sure there are great individual rivalries in Asian football – North v South Korea and China v Japan are pretty obvious – but the bulk of the AFC nations have one thing in common, and that’s an intense dislike of the host nation. Expect the “Socceroos” to cop plenty of physical attention and face every trick in the book throughout the tournament. And don’t think the visiting nations won’t be short of support. Australia is one of the most diverse multi-cultural nations in the world so the minorities will be out in force, along with big supporter contingents for the giants of East Asian football.
Turn the sound down
This item is a repeat from our World Cup preview but it remains extremely important and qualifies as our fifth pillar of sports betting (along with value, finding the best price, research and bankroll management. You’ll be bombarded with media coverage of the Asian in newspapers, on TV and online. The vast majority of this commentary is completely irrelevant for our purposes, and most of the statistics you’ll hear quoted have little or no bearing on the outcome of the game (time of possession is a good example of a useless stat that is quoted ad nauseum). As always, do your own homework and back your own judgment and you’ll quickly recognise that the experts aren’t so expert after all.