Asian Cup 2024: Analysing the Favourites

Following the momentous FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar is preparing to protect its title as the champion of Asian football by hosting the AFC Asian Cup 2023, which will include the top footballing nations from the vast continent.

The 24-team competition commenced on January 12 at the renowned Lusail Stadium, where Lionel Messi’s Argentina triumphed in their third World Cup, seen by an audience of about 89,000 spectators.

Today, we are examining the leading contenders in the tournament, focusing on the teams most likely to succeed in the competition and emerge as the victors to return home with the highly esteemed trophy.

Asian Cup 2023: Key Dates

The tournament kicked off on Friday, January 11. The opening match of group A saw the competition have hosts Qatar dominate Lebanon 3-0.

The third and final group stage fixtures will conclude on Thursday, January 25th, with the final matches being Kyrgyzstan versus Oman and Saudi Arabia vs Thailand.

The round of 16 will begin on Sunday, January 28, following a two-day break, and will continue until January 31. The quarterfinal matches are scheduled for February 1 and 2, followed by the February 6 and 7 semifinals. Like the World Cup, the competition will culminate with the final match in Lusail on Saturday, February 11, at 6 pm (15:00 GMT).

Asian Cup 2023 Qualification and Groups

After completing a yearlong qualification round, 23 teams were selected, but China was excluded from the process due to its initial hosting rights. Four out of the 24 teams who participated in the previous edition did not meet the requirements to participate in the 2023 event.

Tajikistan emerged as the unexpected standout throughout the qualification phase and secured a place in the final 24 teams as the sole newcomers. Meanwhile, Hong Kong will make a comeback after an absence of more than five decades, while the self-assured South Asian powerhouse India will participate for the second time in a row.

  • Group A: Qatar, China, Tajikistan, Lebanon
  • Group B: Australia, Uzbekistan, Syria, India
  • Group C: Iran, UAE, Palestine, Hong Kong
  • Group D: Japan, Indonesia, Iraq, Vietnam
  • Group E: South Korea, Malaysia, Jordan, Bahrain
  • Group F: Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman

Asian Cup 2023: The Favourites

A significant representation of teams from the Asia Pacific region indicates that Australia, Japan, and South Korea will be prominent candidates to win the championship.

Nevertheless, regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and defending winners Qatar are considered favourites in the Middle East, but before we analyse recommendations for NZ gambling operators, let’s assess the odds and the favourites.

Following the completion of matchday one, the Asian Cup winner betting odds are as follows:

  • Japan [5/4]
  • South Korea [3/1]
  • Australia [6/1]
  • Iran [6/1]
  • Saudi Arabia [8/1]
  • Qatar [10/1]
  • UAE [50/1]


After being defeated by Qatar in the final in 2019, Japan is now the undisputed frontrunner to win the Asian Cup trophy. If they succeed, it will be their fifth championship, further extending their record. Due to the formidable resources possessed by the top-ranked FIFA squad (17th) participating in the Asian Cup, Japan’s coach, Hajime Moriyasu, has decided to exclude Daichi Kamada, the midfielder, from Lazio.

Adding to the controversy of the decision is the inclusion of Kauro Mitoma, who was initially sidelined for a period of six weeks by his club, Brighton, due to an ankle injury sustained in December. Moriyasu’s decision is a significant risk that might have a disastrous outcome if Mitoma does not fully recover and regain the exceptional form that his coach has strongly supported.

With that said Japan boasts a star-studded roster that includes Wataru Endo, Kaoru Mitoma, and Takehiro Tomiyasu to fall back on.

Japan had a formidable set of opponents throughout the World Cup stage; however, they managed to emerge victorious over Germany and Spain, and they’ve participated in five out of the past eight ACF finals, establishing themselves as the team to beat in the forthcoming event.

Matchday 1 Result: 4-2 (Won vs. Vietnam)

South Korea

Son Heung-min, the player with the highest potential and the most impressive record in Asian football, currently serves as the captain of Tottenham Hotspur, a club competing for the Premier League championship. He has played a crucial role in filling the gap created by Harry Kane’s transfer to Bayern Munich. Additionally, he has been awarded the title of Asian Footballer of the Year on three separate occasions.

Under the leadership of Jurgen Klinsmann, South Korea possesses the talented Kim Min-Jae, who recently won the prestigious AFC Asian International Player of the Year award at the AFC Annual Awards in Doha 2022.

They are considered one of the leading contenders to win the championship this time and have the highest number of appearances in the continental event.

Matchday 1 Result: 3-1 (Won vs. Bahrain)


After two consecutive group stage wins, it goes without saying that Australia is a squad that isn’t expected to go down under in this competition.

Australia is participating in the competition for the fifth time, having previously achieved a second-place finish in 2011 and emerged as champions in 2015. They possess considerable strength as seen by their impressive performance in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, when they advanced to the round of 16.

The Socceroos have a team that effectively combines young potential with seasoned experience, making them a strong candidate to win the championship.

Matchday 1 Result: 2-0 (Won vs. India)

Matchday 2 Result: 1-0 (Won vs. Syria)


During the 1960s and 1970s, Iran dominated Asian football by winning three consecutive titles in 1968, 1972, and 1976, establishing themselves as the leading team in the region. Subsequently, they have consistently failed to reach the final.

However, this has not prevented them from actively seeking success on the international level, particularly in the World Cup, which has served as a delightful arena for them. They have participated in the event on six occasions, with their most recent three appearances being in the last three editions. Their first entry in the tournament took place two years after their last victory in the

Asian Cup. Consequently, their ascent in the global rankings has peaked at 15th place. However, they have not reached the group stage in any World Cup tournament. They are presently ranked 22nd, two positions higher than South Korea.

Is Iran on the verge of returning to the final after a hiatus of almost four decades? Undoubtedly, Iran’s results on the international platform and their consequent rankings firmly establish them as formidable contenders, eliminating any notion of them being underdogs or dark horses at any point in the event, and four goals netted versus Palestine during matchday one positions them as a top contender to go all the way.

Matchday 1 Result: 4-1 (Won vs. Palestine)

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, who defeated Argentina during the Qatar 2022 World Cup group round, is the prominent contender against the two favoured teams from East Asia.

In 2023, the Saudi Pro League had a significant overhaul with the notable additions of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, and Neymar. This influx of talent elevated the league to a higher standard. The positive impact will subsequently influence the Saudi players who are already participating in the league.

With six appearances in the finals and an impressive record of three triumphs, this squad is bound to be enthralling to watch. Saudi Arabia, aiming to recreate their victory in 1988 on Qatari soil, is highly favoured to come out on top in Group F. If they can advance to the knockout stage, they will undoubtedly provide a formidable threat to the best Asian teams.

Matchday 1 Result: 2-1 (Won vs. Oman)

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