World Cup tips: Our guide to the Asian teams
Japan lead the betting to be the continent's top side, but our preview predicts a tough tournament for Australia and South Korea.
Despite having five representatives at the World Cup for the first time ever, it’s unlikely any Asian country will be successful.
That is especially true for Saudi Arabia, who are the lowest-ranked nation to have qualified for the tournament and are only rated as the 11th-best side in their continent.
Worse yet, their preparation has been dogged by a chaotic managerial situation.
Having been through three different managers since qualifying, Saudi Arabia have had just six months under former Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi.
In his limited time in charge, the Argentine has instilled a defensive-mindedness that has seen his side keep clean sheets against Algeria and Greece in warm-up friendlies.
That pragmatism – along with the kindest group draw of the lot, alongside hosts Russia, Egypt and Uruguay – means a repeat of their 8-0 thrashing against Germany in 2002 is unlikely.
But it also means a lack of firepower, with Saudi Arabia failing to score in six of their 13 matches since qualifying.
They’re a tempting to score no more than two goals in the tournament, while to finish bottom of Group A is also worth backing.
But their price of to be the top Asian nation should be dismissed.
South Korea can also be written off at .
The 2002 semi-finalists are carried by Tottenham’s Heung Min Son – who is to be his country’s top scorer at the World Cup – with little quality elsewhere.
They managed just four victories out of 10 in qualifying, finishing just two points ahead of Syria and Uzbekistan, and have lost three of their four warm-up friendlies.
Shin Tae-Yong’s side have won just two World Cup matches out of 10 since they hosted the tournament and came last in a group featuring Russia, Algeria and Belgium four years ago.
It’s hard to see them improving on that this time around, given that they lack the quality to compete with Germany, Sweden or Mexico.
Back them at to finish fourth in Group F.
Even though Iran are also likely to fail to qualify, their price of to be their continent’s top side is of more interest.
Carlos Queiroz’s side breezed through an unbeaten qualification campaign and kept nine clean sheets in 10 matches.
That resilient defence is likely to be key in Russia, as it was four years ago in Brazil where they earned a 0-0 draw against Nigeria and kept Argentina out until stoppage time.
Iran can count themselves unlucky to have been given such a tough draw and will realistically need a result in their first game against a strong Morocco side to keep interest alive.
They are available at to make it out of Group B, but a price of for another group-stage elimination illustrates the difficulty of their task.
That leaves two more options in Australia and Japan, with the former’s price of inspiring no confidence.
The Socceroos were disappointing in qualifying, relying on extra-time to get past Syria in the play-off before a 3-1 victory over Honduras.
Bert van Marwijk’s side can no longer rely on 38-year-old Tim Cahill to carry them, and they will be no match for France, Denmark or Peru.
Australia have finished bottom of their World Cup group on three of their last four appearances and should be backed to do so again at .
Japan are in the most open group of the tournament and, as a result, are justifiable favourites to finish as the top Asian side at .
But it’s still difficult to see them recording a top-two finish, even with experienced players such as Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki in their side.
A tough opener against Colombia will probably leave them playing catch-up and, while they should pick up points from games against Senegal and Poland, they will likely complete a clean sweep of group stage exits at .
Saudi Arabia, Australia, Iran, South Korea and Japan all to be eliminated in the group stage –
Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Australia all to finish bottom of their group –
Worth a punt
Japan to be the top Asian side –
Click here to visit Betway's football betting page.