Friday’s Asian Cup action concludes at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha (KO, 17:30) as minnows Hong Kong face pre-tournament favourites Iran, who can qualify for the knockout stages with a victory.
Managed by former Eintracht Frankfurt striker Jorn Andersen, Hong Kong scored their first goal at the finals of the tournament since 1968 in a 3-1 defeat to the United Arab Emirates in their group opener last time out.
Amir Ghalenoei’s Iran side were at their free-scoring best in their Group C opener as they thrashed Palestine 4-1, and another big victory on Friday would put Team Melli in the driving seat to finish top of their group.
Kwan Siu Chan was the history maker for Hong Kong in scoring their first Asian Cup goal in over 50 years, and the central midfielder will be expected to keep his place in the starting line-up.
Forwards Matt Orr and Everton Camargo put in admirable performances against the UAE and will hope to maintain their starting places, whilst Ingolstadt forward Michael Udebuluzor came off the bench and will be looking to force his way into Andersen’s starting XI.
Iran will be expected to comfortably overcome Hong Kong and plenty of changes may be made in order to rest key players for the likely top-of-the-table clash with the United Arab Emirates on matchday three.
Star forward Serdar Azmoun came off the bench to great effect against Palestine and grabbed a goal for his efforts, so the 29-year-old will hope that this will be enough to start on Friday, whilst defender Majid Hosseini also made a promising cameo appearance and could force his way into the starting XI.
Hong Kong are massive underdogs for this contest at 25/1, while heavy favourites Iran are 1/25 to take the victory.
A tie provides odds of 9/1, while Azmoun to score anytime can be backed at 8/11.
Iran to win and over 3.5 goals @ 19/20
Team Melli have looked a force to be reckoned with in recent games, with the side’s last defeat coming back in 2022, when they were eliminated from the World Cup by USA.
In fact since then, Iran have drawn only two of their 14 games while winning each of their other 12.
Eight of these victories have seen Ghalenoei’s men score at least three goals, and with three of Iran’s top 10 all-time goalscorers in the squad in the form of Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi and Karim Ansarifard, their goal threat looks to be the most potent of any side in the competition.
Mehdi Taremi to score 2+ goals @ 5/1
These two sides faced each other in mid-November, with Porto striker Taremi scoring one and assisting another in a 4-0 thumping.
Taremi has yet to get off the mark in this competition but is unlikely to be kept quiet for too much longer, given he scored six goals in his last eight competitive matches ahead of the tournament, as well as a goal against Burkina Faso in his only start in the warm-up games.
If the 31-year-old keeps his place in the starting line-up, expect the striker to be hungry to get off the mark with a handful of goals.
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