Asian Cup hosts Australia to raise curtain in style against Kuwait
Australia, 11/4 second-favourites with Coral to lift the Asian Cup, have the chance to excite home fans in this tournament opener as they host the continent’s top competition for the first time in their history.
Once the festivities have ended, Ange Postecoglou’s men will face Group A opponents Kuwait, against who it is imperative for the Socceroos to secure a win and grab as many points as possible before facing foes South Korea.
Ambitious Australia, who were runners-up in the last edition of the Asian Cup in 2011, are odds-on favourites at 1/4 to taste victory in this opening encounter.
Former Everton attacker Tim Cahill is even more important for his nation than he was for the Toffees, and recently spearheaded a spirited Socceroos side at the World Cup.
In Brazil, Cahill, Australia’s all-time top scorer, smashed in a screamer and will be his country’s main goal threat again, supported by Bundesliga-based forwards Mathew Leckie and Robbie Kruse.
Without talismanic Cahill, the Socceroos’ younger strikers have often looked adrift but, with the ex-Premier League star back where he belongs, the hosts are 13/8 to net three or more.
Cahill himself is 7/5 in the anytime market to add to his catalogue of impressive international strikes, or 4/1 to fire home first.
Leckie, tipped to eventually step in to Cahill’s shoes as top attacking threat when the veteran retires, is 2/1 to net anytime, whilst Socceroos and Crystal Palace skipper Mile Jedinak is 11/2 to grab the last goal.
The 2014 AFC International Player of the Year and Eagles midfielder has been in prolific form of late, but his most important contribution could be shielding the defence against expected Kuwaiti counter attacks.
Meanwhile, Kuwait, known as the Blue as well, are widely seen as also-rans and cannon fodder in Pool A but could certainly have a say in proceedings if they get off to a shock start by stealing Australia’s scalp.
The Middle Eastern minnows are 11/1 to upset the apple cart by stunning the Socceroos with defeat, and may be able to take advantage of the pressure piled on to their hosts.
Australia do not have the best record against Kuwait, who have won five out of 10 duels with the Aussies, including both battles on enemy turf.
The Blue do boast the services of speedy striker Bader Al Mutwa, who has netted against the ‘Roos before and is 14/5 to add to his current tally of 43 international goals anytime.
Kuwait have, however, recently been rocked by a poor Gulf Cup of Nations finish and the replacement of Brazilian boss Jorvan Viera with Nabil Maaloul in December.
Viera has had limited time to produce a plan for success in the tournament and, coupled with the Socceroos’ superior firepower and atmosphere provided by home fans, Australia should have enough to enjoy an opening day victory.