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Asian Qualifiers - Group A Preview: Syria in the way of China PR's dream, Philippines seek winning finish against Maldives

Sharjah: China PR need nothing less than a win over Syria on Tuesday if they are to stand a chance of advancing to the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 as one of the five best runners-up. 

Philippines, meanwhile, will be aiming to end their campaign with a win against Maldives after the Southeast Asian side confirmed their place in the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 after securing third place in Group A.

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Victory over Guam on Friday secured the Philippines a third place finish in Group A ahead of the Maldives, but Scott Cooper’s side will go hunting for a fourth win in the second round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 when the nations meet on Tuesday.

Captain Stephan Schrock gave his players a public dressing down on the pitch after the 3-0 win over the American protectorate, so irate was the Germany-born midfielder at the standard of the Azkals performance.

The 34-year-old will be expecting his teammates to raise their game at Sharjah Stadium against a Maldives side the Philippines defeated 2-1 in Male when the two nations last met in November 2019.

Michael Kempter started the game against Guam wearing a face mask after having suffered a broken nose in the 2-0 loss against China in the previous game while Jarvy Gayoso, who had been a doubt ahead of the game due to a hamstring issue, appeared off the bench. Both should be available for selection on Tuesday.

The Maldives will have top scorer Ali Ashfaq available to start after the 35-year-old came off the bench in the 5-0 defeat against China having missed the previous game following a positive test for COVID-19.

Martin Koopman’s side have won twice so far in qualifying – in both of their games against Guam – and they will be eyeing a victory to boost their hopes of advancing to the final round of the Qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

Philippines v Maldives
Venue: Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah
Kick-off: 19:00 hours (UTC+4)


With Syria already securing top spot in Group A and with it the guaranteed berth in the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the focus falls on China and their attempt to claim one of the runners-up spots in the next phase of the competition.

Victory will give the hopes of Li Tie’s side a significant boost as they chase one of the five berths available to the teams that finish in second place across the eight groups in the competition.

The Chinese lost the previous meeting between the teams in Dubai in November 2019, when Zhang Linpeng’s own goal gave the Syrians a 2-1 win that ultimately cost head coach Marcello Lippi his job as the Italian quit in the aftermath of the defeat.

Li will hope his squad is well refreshed after making wholesale changes to his starting line-up for Friday’s 5-0 win over the Maldives which saw the former Everton midfielder pick an all-new defensive line while selecting A Lan and Zhang Yuning in attack.

Ming Tian is the only doubt after he was taken to hospital after leaving the field injured early in the game against the Maldives.

While the Syrians have already qualified for the final round of the Asian Qualifiers, Nabil Maaloul’s team are unlikely to take their foot off the gas in their final game of the second round. With seven wins so far, the West Asians will be looking to complete the campaign with a perfect record.

Mahmoud Al Mawas (pictured above) has scored four times in the last two games, netting in the 3-0 win over Guam after coming off the bench in the second half, and the Romania-based playmaker will no doubt present the greatest threat to Chinese hopes of a win.

Syria have the benefit from not playing since June 7 and Maaloul should reinstate central defender Omar Al Midani after he was rested for the game against Guam while Mouaiad Al Ajaan, who was sent off in the 4-0 win over the Maldives, will also be available for selection.

China PR v Syria
Venue: Sharjah Stadium, Sharjah
Kick-off: 19:00 hours (UTC+4)

*Polls end at 23:00 (UTC+8) on June 15.

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