The Group Stage of the 2015 Asian Cup is in the books. There were 24 matches played. There was not a single draw. Truly remarkable. We went back and looked at our match projections prior to the start of the tournament. The chances that there would not be a single draw is 1 in 790. That’s pretty ridiculous. You’d be a very rich person had you wagered on that.
We are down to 8 teams, and there is really not much surprise among the 8. As a reminder, here were our predictions:
The teams finished exactly in that order. We expected a little more from Kuwait, but we had them with almost a 50% chance of finishing last. Also, we liked South Korea more than Australia despite the home advantage. Turns out that prediction was right as well.
China ended up doing even better than we thought. We saw a lot of talk out there that Saudi Arabia would advance. We didn’t think so at all, and it fact we thought China was better by a good margin. We had Saudi Arabia with only a 31% chance to get out of the group and had China at 71%. We liked Uzbekistan more but we still picked the Top 2. We also thought Korea DPR was the worst team in the field. They arguably showed less than Palestine and Kuwait. They never really had any chance.
United Arab Emirates
Likewise in Group C, there was a lot of talk about the strength of Qatar. They wet the bed, not even emerging with a single point. We had the top 2 nailed in order yet again and just had Qatar and Bahrain switched. We thought Iran was clearly the best team in this group and saw exactly that. UAE impressed us in taking out both Qatar and Bahrain, but as we warned, finishing 2nd in this group was likely to get you Japan. It did.
We got 7 of 8 teams to advance correct, but we missed on Iraq. In our defense we only had Jordan with a 49% chance of advancing. Iraq was at 35%. Japan was far and away the team with our highest point projection, as we expected them to emerge with all 9 points. It was a just a matter of who would join them. Our rankings liked Jordan a little bit more than Iraq, but Iraq did a nice job to claim the 2nd spot.
Overall not too shabby. We had 10 of the 16 teams in the exact correct spot with Group A exactly correct. In each of the 3 other groups, we had 2 teams flip-flopped. There was not a single team that finished more than 1 spot off from their projection. That’s incredible.
Here are your matchups:
Korea Republic v. Uzbekistan
China PR v. Australia
Iran v. Iraq
Japan v. UAE
Again, while we were slightly off in the matchups, the overall projection holds. We expected, and still do, both Korea and Australia to advance to the semifinals. We think Korea is clearly the better team than Uzbekistan, and have them ranked #2 in Asia. They should be able to handle Uzbekistan. Australia may have some difficulty with a hot Chinese team who is playing extremely well right now. They’re undefeated in 13 matches, but the level of competition certainly hasn’t been there. That should be your best matchup, but we think Australia will go through.
Iran v. Iraq is a classic battle between neighbors.These nations faced each other in a friendly just before the tournament with Iran claiming a narrow victory. We think Iran will again be able to move on. And unfortunately for UAE, this is what we were wary about. The 2nd place Group C team was destined to draw Japan, the top team in Asia. It will take a major upset for a UAE squad who we think is very good. Had they topped Group C, they’d have a much more manageable game against Iraq.
So, we expect the 4 World Cup 2014 teams to be the 4 semifinal teams. Really going out on a limb. We actually have UAE ranked #4 in Asia, but the matchup doesn’t dictate a victory. We’re expecting Japan v. Australia and Korea Republic v. Iran in the semis. We ultimately expect Japan v. Korea Republic in the finals with Japan taking the crown.
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