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Asian Qualifiers - Group C Preview: IR Iran, Iraq in winner-takes-all clash; Hong Kong aiming to deny Bahrain


Muharraq: The Group C winners will be determined on Tuesday when Islamic Republic of Iran and Iraq clash at the Sheikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Stadium, while Bahrain face Hong Kong in their final match in the second round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023. 

The race for top spot promises to see a thrilling end with Iraq - on 17 points - two ahead of Iran while Bahrain will need to defeat Hong Kong by a huge margin and hope for Iran to lose to secure second place as Group C goes down to the wire.

Top spot will secure a place in the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, while a strong finish may also see the group's runners-up through.

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IR IRAN v IRAQ

All eyes will be on Iran as Team Melli will look to make it four wins out four since Group C resumed earlier this month with Cambodia, Bahrain and Hong Kong easily seen off.

Iraq, however, will be a tougher challenge and with victory the only option in their bid to finish top, head coach Dragan Skocic will demand the winning consistency Iran have developed in Muharraq as they chase a third consecutive appearance in the FIFA World Cup Finals.

Iran have been clinical in front of the net, with 17 goals to their name while the defence has been resolute with only Chinese Taipei able to breach the backline in Muharraq.

Iraq, meanwhile, may only need a draw but it is highly unlikely that head coach Srecko Katanec will adopt a defensive gameplan against an Iran side who have been scoring at will.

Iraq resumed their campaign with a 4-1 defeat of Cambodia but found the going tougher against Hong Kong, with an own goal by Fung Hing Wa securing the West Asians the three points.

Katanec wasn't unduly bothered by the lack of goals against Hong Kong and will remind his charges that they defeated Iran when the two teams met in November 2019.


IR Iran v Iraq
Venue: Sheikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Stadium, Muharraq
Kick-off: 1930 hours (UTC+3)



BAHRAIN v HONG KONG

Much will be expected of Bahrain in their final qualifying match, with Helio Sousa's side still with a mathematical chance of finishing second, provided Iran lose to Iraq and Bahrain score a huge win over Hong Kong.

The Reds resumed their campaign with a resounding 8-0 win over Cambodia, but came unstuck in the 3-0 defeat to Iran and must regain their best form for a strong finish against Hong Kong.

With the pressure on Bahrain, Hong Kong will be looking to capitalise as they set their sights on finishing with a win.

Despite suffering defeats to Iran and Iraq, head coach Mixu Paatelainen's charges have shown improvement and with their place in the final round of the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers secured, the East Asian side have nothing to lose against a Bahrain they held 0-0 when the two met in November 2019.


Bahrain v Hong Kong
Venue: Bahrain National Stadium, Riffa
Kick-off: 19:30 hours (UTC+3)

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

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