Many a bleary eye will be focusing on events Down Under tomorrow morning and the kick-off of the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia with the hosts in action against Kuwait.
We’ve already put together a handy guide to five of the biggest young talents to watch in the tournament but what else do you need to know before the action begins?
Here are five handy reminders to help you along…
The hosts Australia are already under pressure
While Ange Postecoglou won plaudits for fielding a young and inexperienced Socceroos side at the World Cup where they certainly did not disgrace themselves in defeats to Chile, Holland and Spain, Australia did leave Brazil with no points to their name and things have hardly improved since.
Individuals like Mat Ryan and Mile Jedinak may continue to impress but the hosts have won just once since the World Cup – a 3-2 victory over Saudi Arabia – and are too reliant on veterans like Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano. Odds of 9/1 on a Kuwait win could yet tempt in the tournament curtain-raiser.
It’s all about the favourites Japan Down Under
With newly-appointed manager Javier Aguirre tasked with adding a little more steel to the Blue Samurai, Japan have gone from strength to strength under the Mexican and look worthy favourites at 9/4 with Ladbrokes at present.
Boasting a team brimming with talented players like Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa as well as Inter Milan star Yuto Nagatomo in defence, the reigning champions have also benefited from a draw that should see them progress to the semi-finals with relative ease.
Golden Boot favourite seeks Premier League move
One of the main reasons Japan are looking like the red-hot pick to win in Australia is the form of striker Shinji Okazaki, who will provide the main goal-threat for the Blues in a tournament that could prove to be the ideal audition for the 28-year-old ahead of a big money move to England.
Several top-flight sides are thought to be interested in the Mainz forward who has scored 25 goals in 50 outings for the Bundesliga side, as well as 40 goals in 84 games for Japan with 11 of those strikes coming over the past two years. Ladbrokes is offering 3/1 on him being top scorer at the tournament.
Palestine could be in for a very rough ride
The lowest ranked team at the tournament according to FIFA and rank outsiders for Asian Cup glory at a whopping 150/1, Palestine’s prospects have hardly been helped by the fact they face both Japan and Jordan, with the latter just a play-off away from making the World Cup in Brazil last summer.
Iraq, who won the competition back in 2007, complete their group line-up and it could prove a canny bet to back the Asian Cup minnows to come away from the tournament without a win or a point to their names.
It’s all going to be ready and waiting on Eurosport
With games broadcast on the sports channel from the painfully early time of 5am and some more palatable 9am kick-offs scheduled over the next few days, mornings may never be the same for fans of all things soccer.
Bringing back nostalgic memories of those early games at the 2002 World Cup, this is your chance to enjoy football and a bacon sandwich alongside the often chaotic but always enjoyable coverage on Eurosport – with plenty of in-play markets also available through Ladbrokes of course!
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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