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Asian Cup Group Stage: Preview, odds & stats

The 18th edition of the Asian Cup begins on Friday 12th January, with hosts Qatar taking on Lebanon in Lusail.

Like the Africa Cup of Nations, the Asian Cup features 24 teams spread across six groups of four teams.

The play each other in a round-robin format, with 16 teams qualifying for the knockout rounds.

Group A

TeamGroup Winner Odds
Qatar3/10
China9/2
Tajikistan8/1
Lebanon18/1

Defending champions and hosts Qatar will expect to prove some of their doubters wrong after struggling at their home World Cup by dominating Group A. 

They won all three of their pool matches in 2019, and with qualification likely, they are 10/1 to defend their title. 

Two-time runners-up China, who were initially expected to host the competition, will also expect to progress to at least the last 16 after reaching the quarter-finals at each of the last two Asian Cups. 

Lebanon have fallen in the group stages in their two appearances at the Asian Cup and are the underdogs in the pool behind debutants Tajikistan.

Group B

TeamGroup Winner Odds
Australia1/3
Uzbekistan13/5
Syria12/1
India66/1

Australia will fancy their chances of claiming a second Asian Cup title, with them 13/2 to emulate their triumph of 2015 under Ange Postecoglou, and Graham Arnold will expect his Socceroos to emerge from their Group B unscathed.

They should be joined in the second round by Uzbekistan, who have made it out of the groups in the last five finals and were fourth in 2011, but are without star striker Eldor Shomurodov due to injury. 

A team with an eye on one of the best third-placed finisher spots will be Syria, who have a cosmopolitan squad and an experienced coach in Hector Cuper. They are just 4/9 to qualify. 

India have qualified for back-to-back finals for the first time but will struggle to improve on their performance in the 2019 competition when they were eliminated in the group stage.

Group C

TeamGroup Winner Odds
Iran4/9
United Arab Emirates21/10
Palestine10/1
Hong Kong80/1

Iran were semi-finalists in 2019 and while they should ease through Group C, their tournament will start in earnest in the knockout rounds. 

They will be eyeing a first final since the last time they won this tournament in 1976, and have plenty of talent in the likes of Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi, who is 10/1 to be the tournament's top goalscorer. 

UAE have made the semi-finals in the last two editions of the Asian Cup and should progress to the knockouts, while Palestine are involved for the third consecutive competition. 

They are still make the knockout rounds, but a win over Hong Kong, who have qualified for the first time since 1968, could be enough to justify their 4/9 to go through, with the returning Dragons likely to prop up the standings.

Group D

TeamGroup Winner Odds
Japan1/8
Iraq5/1
Vietnam22/1
Indonesia 66/1

Four-time winners Japan are the 9/4 favourites for outright glory and boast real quality in familiar names such as captain Wataru Endo of Liverpool, Brighton's Kaoru Mitoma and Arsenal's Takehiro Tomiyasu. 

The Samurai Blue are targeting a first title since 2011 and are joined in Group D by Iraq, who were the surprise champions in 2007. 

This could be an intriguing pool, with Vietnam having reached the quarter-finals in their last two appearances - in 2007 and 2019 - while Indonesia return to the tournament for the first time since 2007.

Group E

TeamGroup Winner Odds
South Korea1/9
Jordan8/1
Bahrain14/1
Malaysia28/1

South Korea, 9/2 outright and led by 11/4 favourite to be the top goalscorer, Heung-Min Son, should dominate Group E, but similar to Iran, they have something to prove in the latter stages, with their last continental success coming in 1960. 

Jordan look likely to take second spot, but the openness of the group justifies Bahrain being just 4/9 to qualify for the round of 16, as they did in 2019. 

That is unlikely to be the case, though, for Malaysia, who have failed to make it out of the group stages in their previous three appearances.

Group F

TeamGroup Winner Odds
Saudi Arabia1/3
Oman3/1
Thailand16/1
Kyrgyzstan 18/1

Saudi Arabia have not been crowned Asian champions since 1996 and will be desperate to take top seeding in Group F. A defeat to Qatar in 2019 meant they played Japan in the round of 16, resulting in them crashing out in the second round for the first time ever. 

Boss Roberto Mancini enjoyed a rollercoaster spell in charge of Italy, failing to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar but winning the Euros. 

Mancini has good players to call on such as Al-Ahli striker Firas Al-Buraikan and Al-Hilal playmaker Salem Al-Dawsari and they should be joined in the knockouts by Oman. 

Kyrgyzstan reached the last 16 on debut in 2019 and are 5/2 to emulate that feat, but will need to best Thailand, who are 8/11 to qualify after also making the second stage five years ago.

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