AFP Sports Guide to the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup, which begins on Thursday and uses the Video Assistant Referee System (VAR) for the first time in the tournament.
- Vietnam against Japan:
Japan should push Vietnam aside, but the four-time champions were not so convincing that defeat would not come as a big surprise.
Hajime Moriyasu’s team stumbled through the tournament, winning in each of their four games with a single goal lead. There were two goals in their Group 2 F-2 victory over Turkmenistan, 127th in the world.
They gave Saudi Arabia more than 75 percent of possession in a final final that took Takehiro Tomiyasu’s header from a corner against the run of play.
Meanwhile, Vietnam, fresh from the title of Southeast Asian title last month, has defeated a well-organized Jordanian side on penalties and could be a handful for the stuttering Japanese.
- China against Iran:
The end of Marcello Lippi’s China seems almost over as they face the only thoroughly dangerous team in the tournament.
Iran is Asia’s top international and has yet to concede a goal in the tournament. In their four games, they have scored nine goals as they were confidently drawn into the neighborhood and were stopped only in a Group G goalless draw against arch rival Iraq.
It’s the kind of form that has forced them to shun the team – which is a bad luck for China, an aging team with injury problems and few chances to attack.
In their favor, however, is the acumen of Lippi, who won the 2006 World Cup for Italy and may still have some tickets left before his expected departure after the tournament.
- South Korea against Qatar:
The late arrival of Son Heung-min helped South Korea in the final group match to a significant boost, a 2-0 victory over China. However, he needed extra time to defeat the part-time players of Bahrain 2-1 in the first knockout round.
Injuries may prove critical to the Taeguk Warriors, who have lost Newcastle midfielder Ki Sung-yeung over the last few days due to a thigh problem.
Meanwhile, the host of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has gone from strength to strength and has disrupted Saudi Arabia in the group stage with a brace from Almoez Ali, the tournament’s top scorer, who scored seven wins in the group stage and hit Iraq in the second round 1-0 victory brought them in the quarters.
As Qatar was largely banished from the United Arab Emirates thanks to the progressing Gulf Blockade and the hymns greeted their anthem, Felix Sanchez Bas’s team was a quietly defiant tournament.
- UAE vs Australia:
Defending champion Australia finished second in his group, but it worked well, with a favorable draw and Iran’s no chance until the final.
Although the Socceroos have narrowly passed Uzbekistan, the Socceroos are big favorites to destroy the hopes of Alberto Zaccheroni’s lifeless UAE.
The hosts, who are a world away from the dynamic football that illuminated their appearance in the 2015 edition, had some eccentric refereeing decisions to stay in the tournament.
With local fans flocking, Australia has even less reason to be afraid of the game in Al Ain, where they have played three out of four games so far.
- VAR arrives:
The technology that has shaken the World Cup in Russia will be used for the first time in a quarter-final Asian Cup. Decisions on whether the ball has crossed the goal line, penalties, red cards and false identities can all be vetted before the referee makes the final decision in the field.
There could have been a very different kind of competition if VAR had always been used: two late penalties for the United Arab Emirates and two goals in Australia’s victory over Syria are among the incidents that may have been the subject of an in-depth investigation. This will bring with it an additional element of interest and, as defenders are well aware, more penalties may be involved.