Asian Cup Preview: Qatar v Bahrain

Qatar will play Bahrain at Stadium Australia on 19 January at 8:00pm AEST in the last round of Group C.

Head-to-head: 

The last two meetings between these neighbouring gulf countries came in 2014 and both ended in 0-0 draws. Their last match that rendered a result was during Asian Cup qualification in 2013, where Bahrain overcame Qatar 1-0.

The Game:

While both teams are playing for no more than World Cup rankings, the game may be more than the usual dead rubber. Bahrain and Qatar are neighbouring countries who are extremely familiar with each other; they have evolved into traditional rivals after meeting each other multiple times over the past few years. Both teams have lost their last three AFC Asian Cup games in a row - neither have ever lost 4 in a row. After a disappointing performance in the tournament, both teams will be hungry for a win to preserve their pride and deliver bragging rights to the fans.

Bahrain comes into the game the stronger, narrowly losing to both UAE and Iran and showing their legitimate attacking threat in the process. Striker Jaycee John Okwunwanne has shown his raw attacking ability in the box throughout the competition and their defence has done relatively well, going up against quality opposition on both occasions.

Qatar, on the other hand, started poorly against UAE, lacking any attacking penetration and showcasing their obvious defensive problems.  Qatar exhibited some resilience in their next game against a strong opponent where they improved their shaky defence, but again laid bare their attacking deficiencies. A lack of goal scorers in their front three will be the biggest barrier to overcoming a challenging Bahraini team.

A shining light that emerged from their last fixture against Iran was Mohammed Muntari, who wasn't afraid to take on the defence and get into dangerous positions but he had no attacking options in support. Khalfan Ibrahim did help when he came off the bench but he doesn't provide what they are in dire need of - someone who can be that clinical final option in the box.

Qatar have conceded 5 goals at the tournament so far while Bahrain have conceded one less so it appears the vital question is which defence will perform better? It is important not to write off these teams, expect an intense game between two sides with plenty to play for.  

The Big Issue:

Qatar showed a much more solid defence against Iran but they still have offensive problems. After some low scoring affairs between the two in the recent past, this game looks on track to carry on that trend.

Game Breaker:

Will Qatar finally fire? Qatar are yet to find a way to trouble their opponents back four but Bahrain is a team capable of scoring. If Qatar continue with their offensive troubles then they will find it difficult to get the result they desire, regardless of how well their defence performs.

Prediction:

Bahrain 1-0 Qatar