Saudi Arabia vs North Korea
Competition: AFC Asian Cup
Date: 8 January 2019
Kick-off: 17:00 CET
Saudi Arabia won their last group match in Russia’s World Cup finals, over Egypt, leaving some good last impressions, after having lost previously to Russia themselves (5-0) and Uruguay (1-0). That 2-1 over Egypt was the last game for some players who had been regulars at the national team for years and years. New players had to come in, but at least the coach remained the same; Spaniard Juan Antonio Pizzi has been in charge since November 2017, and kept his job, despite not reaching the knock-out stages of the World Cup finals. Saudi Arabia have won the Asian Cup three times in the past, actually all three in a matter of 12 years, between 1984 and 1996. Interestingly, they finished at the bottom of their group in 2011, and then again in 2015, failed to make it to the knockout stages, finishing third in their group. Playing… almost at home, they are tipped to go a long way in this tournament, and their presence in the last 16 is taken practically for granted.
North Korea haven’t reached the knock-out stages of the Asian Cup since 1980(!), but now that even most third-placed teams will make it to the last 16, their chances look boosted. Plus, their roster includes some very interesting players. They have guys playing for European clubs, Japanese clubs, a couple of them make a living elsewhere in Asia, and probably for the first time ever, they have a 20-year-old with a market value of 5m euros(!). Kwang-Song Han, Perugia’s center-forward teaming up with Il-Gwan Jong, should earn the team better results than those four years ago, in Australia. That 4-0 defeat to Bahrain in their last friendly game was tough to swallow, but at the end of the day, it was just a friendly match. They have the chance to rise to the occasion, now that it really matters. Korea’s coach is Kim Yong-jun, the successor of Jorn Andersen, who left the job after the team qualified for the Asian Cup finals, tired of the conditions under which he had to work there.
Previous five matches:
South Korea vs Saudi Arabia 0-0
Jordan vs Saudi Arabia 1-1
Saudi Arabia vs Yemen 1-0
Saudi Arabia vs Iraq 1-1
Saudi Arabia vs Brazil 0-2
Bahrain vs North Korea 4-0
Vietnam vs North Korea 1-1
Taiwan vs North Korea 0-2
Hong Kong vs North Korea 0-0
North Korea vs Mongolia 4-1
Saudi Arabia’s next game is on Saturday, against Lebanon. North Korea will be facing Qatar next Sunday.
Saudi Arabia vs North Korea: Head to head Stats
Saudi Arabia and North Korea have faced each other nine times in the past; four wins for the Arabs, four draws, and just one victory for the Koreans. Total goals, 12-6. The most recent game was in the previous Asian Cup edition, in 2015, when Saudi Arabia triumphed 4-1 in the group stage.
Saudi Arabia vs North Korea: Prediction
Saudi Arabia are considered big favorites to win the game. I agree, partly because I… suspect that if they need a little push by the referee, they’ll get it.
Saudi Arabia vs North Korea: Betting Tips
Saudi Arabia’s win is at 1.65. Combined with “over 1.5”, that goes up to 2.17, my main tip.