The most successful side in Asian Cup history is up against one who has never made a semi-final. The favourites should win it but the smart money is on it being decided by the single goal, says Jamie Pacheco.
"Japan should make use of their experience and win this in 90 minutes but we can do better than the 19/20 on the straight win. The last time they played Qatar they beat them 3-2 and two of their four wins in Asian Cup finals were 1-0 victories in 90 minutes. All of which points to a narrow win."
Japan v Qatar
Friday February 1, 14:00
Asian Cup specialists in yet another final
Japan are a pretty short-looking 19/20 to win this match in 90 minutes. Two main reasons for that. No side has won the Asian Cup more often than them (four times) so they know what it takes to get over the line once they've negotiated their way to the final.
And on top of that, a resounding 3-0 win over Iran, who were hot favourites to win that game after not having conceded a goal the whole tournament, suggests that they're peaking at just the right time.
Similar to the last few World Cups, a surprise contender here or there can come from nowhere to make a semi or even the final (Croatia, for example) but going all the way is normally reserved for the favourites. Well, that's the thinking behind the price at least.
Fearless Qatar thoroughly deserve a shot at glory
Qatar were well behind in the betting at the start but have brushed off their 'dark horses' tag to play like they were hot favourites.
How's this for a perfect record at a competitive tournament? They've played six matches, scored 16 goals and not conceded any.
Their excellent record at the back is what tempted me to tip them to win to nil against hosts UAE ahead of the semi-final but I certainly didn't expect them to go out and win 4-0.
They probably won't be too aware that they're 14/5 outsiders to win in 90 minutes but they'll certainly be aware that they're underdogs. And that will suit them just fine; they have nothing to lose.
One team has seen it all before when it comes to the business end of an Asian Cup. Not only have Japan won this competition four times but that's as many times as they've made the final. In other words, once they get there, they win it.
Mind you, that 3-0 win over Iran may look extremely impressive on paper but it could easily have been a very different result on another day. It was a fantastic match but one where Iran had more possession, more shots and more corners.
To say this is unchartered territory for Qatar is an understatement. They've never even made a semi-final before this edition, let alone a final.
If you value experience and the been-there-and-done it side, go with Japan at a shade of odds-on. But the value in this market is arguably with Qatar, who inexperience aside, have been far more impressive overall both in terms of performances and results. They're 14/5 with the draw 2/1.
After three and four goals were scored in each of the two semi-finals, you might wonder why 'unders' is so short at just 40/85.
Well, not only are big finals historically low-scoring affairs with so much at stake but this one in particular is. Of the 12 Asian Cup finals played to date, 10 of them went unders.
And remember that Qatar are yet to concede so the odds are stacked against Japan getting three by themselves.
That said, if we forgot those historic results in Asian Cup finals, you could probably make a case for 'overs' here based on price. Two of the last three between these two went overs and three of Japan's six games at this tournament went overs. Tempting to go with three or more goals at 13/8 but not tempting enough.
Japan should make use of their experience and win this in 90 minutes but we can do better than the 19/20 on the straight win. The last time they played Qatar they beat them 3-2 and two of their four wins in Asian Cup finals were 1-0 victories in 90 minutes.
All of which points to a narrow win. A 1-0 repeat here (which is 7/2 as a stand-alone price) is a lively runner but I also wouldn't discount 2-1 given Qatar have scored in every match so far this tournament.
You can cover both eventualities plus a few more unlikely ones by going with Japan to win by exactly one goal at 5/2. In a match with lots of uncertainties and contradictory stats, that looks the best bet.