We’ve got early-morning action in AFC World Cup qualifiers on the cards on Thursday. Japan plays host to China in an important match in Group B.
A win for Japan would go a long way toward qualifying for Qatar 2022 while China desperately needs all three points to save their campaign. As the latest soccer odds stand, Japan is a huge -475 favorite in Saitama.
Game: Japan vs China
Location: Saitama Stadium, Saitama, Japan
Date/Time: Thursday, 5 a.m. ET
|Japan||-1½ -140||-475||2½ -135o||2½ +135o |
|China||+1½ +110||+1100||2½ +105u||½ +125o |
Japan vs China Betting Preview
Head to Head
Japan have been a great pick for betting online in this rivalry matchup in recent years. The Samurai Blue are undefeated in their last 13 matches vs China and have won three consecutive meetings. Last September, Yuya Osaka’s goal gave Japan a 1-0 win in the reverse fixture of these 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Japan Missing Two Key Defenders
If qualifying ended today, Japan would get one of four automatic berths from the third round. Second place in Group B, Japan are on 12 points, one ahead of Australia and four behind leaders Saudi Arabia.
Japan’s biggest recent problem has been scoring goals. The Samurai Blue have conceded just three goals in the third round of qualifying but have failed to make the most of their opportunities. Japan’s five goals in six games is nothing to write home about and it has a crucial rematch vs Saudi Arabia following their meeting with China.
Although Japan has been one of the better soccer pick sin AFC qualifying, bettors should be wary. Japan is missing both Takehiro Tomiyasu and captain Maya Yoshida in the heart of defense. Naomichi Ueda and Miki Yamane could fill in but they only have a combined 22 caps.
The Samurai Blue are full of talented players in attacking positions, with Liverpool winger Takumi Minamino the headliner. Minamino has nine goals in 11 starts in AFC qualifying and is tied for the team lead along with Japan-based striker Yuya Osako. Takuma Asano, who recently scored his first Bundesliga goal for VfL Bochum, is another option.
China Keeping Competitive
China has had a rough time in the third round of qualifiers and is in fifth place out of six teams in Group B through six matches. They’ve won just one match, a 3-2 thriller over Vietnam in which Wu Lei scored the winning goal in stoppage time.
Lei, Shanghai SIPG’s top scorer, plays for Mallorca in La Liga and he’s one of the key players on a Chinese team that doesn’t lack in talent. High-profile foreign arrivals in China’s domestic league have raised the standards in recent seasons and the national team setup has improved.
It’s not like China has been blown away in its qualifiers. They’ve only been beaten by more than a one-goal margin once and did manage a draw vs Australia back in November.
Qualification for Qatar might not be within reach, which is disappointing because most of China’s stars are in the twilight of their prime years. Lei, who has 12 goals in 14 qualifiers, is 30 while midfielder Wu Xi, attacking mid Elkeson and defender Zhang Linpeng are all 32.
Despite the struggles, China is capable of bagging a result or two in its last few matches.
It’s hard to know whether Japan’s defensive absences will hurt them enough to impact the game here. Japan has shut out China in three of the last six meetings, but China didn’t manage any shots on target when these two sides met back in September.
Taking Japan’s moneyline isn’t a great value play and I’m definitely not sold on the spread of -1½, especially at the current sportsbook odds of -140. Japan will definitely dominate possession but that hasn’t always translated into goals for them. Under 2½ at +105 looks to be a solid play here as a result.
Pick: Under 2½ Goals (+105)