China V Uzbekistan, FIFA World Cup Qualifying (Asian Football Confederation) Third Round Group A, Wuhan, 31st August 2017
China take on Uzbekistan in Wuhan on Matchday 9 of third-round qualifying for the 2018 World Cup knowing that only a win will do. Currently lying bottom of the six team group with one win and three draws from eight games, Marcelo Lippi’s side now can only finish as high as third, which would then lead them to a home and away play-off against the third-placed team in Group B (currently Australia), followed by a playoff against another Confederation qualifier. But even a win may not be enough for China as this stage as goal difference may become key (currently China’s goal difference is -4 to Uzbekistan’s 0). Uzbekistan remain masters of their own destiny as they are the current holders of that third-place position.
The odds are stacked against Team Dragon, but while it remains mathematically possible, the team will do all it can to maintain hopes of a first World Cup qualification since 2002. And indeed, the team’s home form may be a cause for optimism: in the four qualifying games in the third round so far, China have lost only once (against Syria), and even defeated South Korea in their last home qualification performance, which was no mean feat.
The game in Uzbekistan between these two sides back in October 2016 ended 2:0 to the hosts, but that was before Lippi’s appointment, and the Italian has a fine pedigree. Uzbekistan have lost three of their four away games in the third round, conceding five times and scoring only twice, so the team’s form on their travels will be a concern to coach Samvel Babayan.
Going to the betting, a China win strikes as the most enticing bet as, quite simply, only a win for the home team will do. Currently the best odds on offer for that outcome are 2.40 with Unibet and Marathonbet.
Then going under 2.5 goals is a no-brainer, having been only two goals in China’s four third-round qualifying games thus far, and indeed there has not been a game among those in which both teams have scored. For these reasons, Under 2.5 goals is not incredible value, but is the only logical bet to take; it’s currently available at 1.60 with Marathonbet. And then selecting ‘no’ on both teams to score – remember it hasn’t happened yet in China in four third-round games to date – is available at 1.75 with bet365.
Team Dragon enter last-chance-saloon territory this week on the team’s quest to reach Russia 2018, while Uzbekistan will look to take a giant step to qualifying for the country’s first ever FIFA World Cup Finals. A big game indeed.