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Asian Qualifiers - Group B Preview: Australia out to complete job against Nepal; Kuwait, Jordan in race for second


Kuwait City: Having all but sealed their place in the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup, Australia will aim to rubber stamp their position as Group B winners with victory over Nepal on Friday.

Victory will also confirm their ticket to the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Finals but should Graham Arnold's men stumble against Nepal, they will still seal top spot in Group B should the Kuwait-Jordan tie later on Friday end in a stalemate.

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NEPAL v AUSTRALIA

Australia head coach Arnold has used the Asian Qualifiers to blood several young players but it has been business as usual for the Socceroos in Kuwait City with two wins out of two to maintain their perfect campaign.

Kuwait were expected to be a challenge when Australia resumed their Asian Qualifiers campaign after an 18-month COVID-19 enforced break from international football but it turned into a routine 3-0 win instead.

That was followed by a 5-1 win over Chinese Taipei on Monday with the only blemish being the goal conceded, just the second time the Australian defence has been breached in six matches.

Arnold will expect his players - irrespective of who starts - to get the job done against a Nepal side Australia comprehensively defeated 5-0 when the two teams met in Canberra back in October, 2019.

Such is Arnold's faith in his players that he started with a different lineup for the match against Chinese Taipei from the side that had defeated Kuwait.

“When I first took over the job I probably had a list of 14-15 players that the country trusted, but now I have probably got a list of 40 and we are headed down the right pathway," Arnold said after the Chinese Taipei match, an indication that he is likely to blood more players against Nepal.

Nepal, however, will be up for the challenge against the group leaders despite only being able to finish fourth in the group.

Monday's 3-0 defeat to Jordan ended their hopes of a third-placed finish but head coach Abdullah Al Mutairi has promised his team will do their best to end their campaign on a high.

“We will keep fighting for Nepal in the next match against Australia,” Mutairi said after the Jordan tie. “We will not rely only on defence, instead we will have a balanced method to the match. If we lose against Australia, it will be with great honour.”


Nepal v Australia
Venue: Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium, Kuwait City
Kick-off: 19:00 hours (UTC+3)


KUWAIT v JORDAN

With top spot out of their reach, hosts Kuwait will be aiming to boost their hopes of a runners-up finish when they play Jordan on Friday.

Jordan, who will also know whether top place is out of reach for them by the time their tie against Kuwait kicks off, currently sit second on 13 points, five behind Australia with two matches remaining.

Finishing second could still earn both teams a place in the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, with the five best runners-up to join the seven group winners. Group E winners Qatar have already qualified for the FIFA World Cup 2022 Finals as hosts.

Jordan will be keen to get the three points against Kuwait as that would seal them second place ahead of their final match against Australia on Tuesday, especially as the home side will end their campaign against bottom-placed Chinese Taipei on the same day.

Jordan head coach Vital Borkelmans tinkered with his team's game plan in the win over Nepal on Monday and the Belgian tactician will surely be plotting a surprise for Andres Carrasco's Kuwait, who produced a disappointing performance in the 3-0 defeat to Australia.

The sides' first meeting in October 2019 ended 0-0.


Kuwait v Jordan
Venue: Jaber Al Ahmad International Stadium, Kuwait City
Kick-off: 22:00 (UTC+3)

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

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