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Asian Qualifiers - Group A Preview: China PR, Philippines on must win missions against Maldives, Guam


Sharjah: China PR and Philippines will be on must win missions when they play Maldives and Guam respectively in Group A of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on Friday. 

With Syria having secured the top spot which carries qualification to the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, China's hopes of joining the Southeast Asians lies in them grabbing one of the five berths available for the best-placed runners-up from the eight groups.

The Philippines take on Guam looking to bounce back from a 2-0 loss at the hands of China PR that fatally damaged their hopes of claiming the runners-up position in Group A as Scott Cooper’s side slipped to six points behind Li Tie’s team.

While the Azkals can mathematically outstrip the Chinese, the chances are beyond remote with the Philippines needing to win their two remaining games by huge margins while China PR must lose heavily to both the Maldives and Syria in their final matches.

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PHILIPPINES v GUAM

The Azkals have seven points from their six games so far, one more than the Maldives in fourth place, so a repeat of their win in September 2019 over Guam – when the Philippines prevailed 4-1 – is vital to stay on track to finish third.

But the Philippines will go into the game with doubts over Michael Kempter and Jarvey Gayoso, who were both injured in the loss to the Chinese on Monday. Kempter suffered a broken nose in that game while Gayoso was replaced 33 minutes into the first half having damaged a hamstring.

Guam, meanwhile, are still searching for their first point of the campaign and will be buoyed by a gritty showing against Syria in their most recent game.

While Seo Dong-won’s side slipped to a 3-0 loss, Guam – led by returning captain Jason Cunliffe – put up a determined fight and will no doubt make the Azkals work hard in the heat and humidity of Sharjah.


Philippines v Guam
Venue: Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah
Kick-off: 18:00 hours (UTC+4)


CHINA PR v MALDIVES

After picking up a win over the Philippines in their most recent game thanks to an improved second half performance, China PR will be looking to secure another three points as they look to claim one the best runners-up berths in the final round of the Asian Qualifiers.

With Syria having already claimed top spot and the automatic spot in the next round that goes with it, Li Tie’s team will now be aiming for victories in their final two games – against the Maldives and then Syria – to rack up as many points as possible.

Wu Lei was in lively form against the Azkals and his growing partnership with Ai Kesen will be pivotal once more when the Chinese meet Martin Koopman’s side.

Reserve goalkeeper Wang Dalei is a doubt after being withdrawn for the game against the Philippines due to injury, but otherwise former Everton midfielder Li will have a strong squad to call upon in this must-win game.

The Maldives, meanwhile, are in a battle with the Philippines to see who can claim third place in Group A and secure themselves a guaranteed place in the final round of qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

Koopman’s side lost their last game 4-0 to Syria but should be lifted on this occasion by the availability of record goal scorer Ali Ashfaq. The forward was not included in the squad for the match against the Syrians after returning a positive COVID-19 test in the days leading up to the game.

But the 35-year-old has since declared himself clear of the virus and his addition to the front line with give the Maldives an added threat as they go in search of a third win in the group, having previously notched up a pair of wins over Guam.

China PR won the previous meeting between the nations in September 2019 5-0 with goals from Wu Xi, Wu Lei and Yang Xu before Ai Kesen scored a late brace.


China PR v Maldives
Venue: Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah
Kick-off: 21:00 hours (UTC+4)

*Polls end on June 11, 23:00 hours (UTC+8)

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