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Asian Qualifiers - Group C Preview: IR Iran seek winning return against Hong Kong, Bahrain target three points in face-off with Cambodia

Muharraq: Islamic Republic will be hoping to return to winning ways when they face Hong Kong in Group C of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on Thursday, while Bahrain will be confident of bagging full points against Cambodia. 

Bahrain are second in the standings on nine points, two adrift of leaders Iraq, while Iran are third with six points with a match in hand.

Hong Kong are on five points while Cambodia only have one point to their name after five matches.

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Iran's bid for qualification to a sixth FIFA World Cup Finals began brightly when they overcame Hong Kong 2-0 in their group opener, before displaying their prowess to seal an emphatic 14-0 win over Cambodia. Team Melli, however, then lost vital points after suffering back-to-back defeats to Bahrain (1-0) and Iraq (2-1).

The defeats mean head coach Dragan Skočić's side have no room for error in their remaining matches if they are to realise their dream of reaching the FIFA World Cup Finals once more.

The Central Asians will have to hit the ground running against Hong Kong and reproduce the same performance when the defeated the East Asian side in their first meeting, with Sardar Azmoun and Karim Ansarifard scoring to secure a 2-0 win.

Hong Kong kicked off their campaign with a 1-1 draw against Cambodia, but then suffered successive defeats to Iran and Iraq. The East Asian side, however, bounced back to hold Bahrain 0-0, before beating Cambodia 2-0 to claim their first win of the campaign.

While Hong Kong still have a mathematical chance of a top place finish, they will need other results to go their way but with a place in the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Finals still within reach, head coach Mixu Paatelainen will galvanise his players to take the challenge to Iran at the Sheikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Stadium.

IR Iran v Hong Kong
Venue: Sheikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Stadium, Muharraq
Kick-off: 17:30 hours (UTC+3)


Bahrain will enjoy the familiarity of playing at home when they face Cambodia at the Bahrain National Stadium as the West Asian side look to repeat their win from the corresponding fixture, with Komail Al Aswad having scored the winning goal in the 1-0 victory.

The Reds' are determined to reach the FIFA World Cup Finals for the first time in their history and will hope to carry the form that won them the 2019 WAFF Championship and Gulf Cup titles into their match against Cambodia.

Head coach Helio Sousa's side will go into the tie match-fit, having played several friendly matches in the buildup and they will be confident of adding three points to their haul.

Cambodia's hopes of advancing to the third round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 are as good as dashed after a return of just one point from five matches, the Southeast Asian side can still target AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualification and will not be lacking motivation against Bahrain.

Head coach Ryu Hirose took charge of the team back in March, and their immediate objective will be to secure their first win of their campaign in a bid to move up the standings and avoid a playoff match to qualify for the third round of the Qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

Bahrain v Cambodia
Venue: Bahrain National Stadium, Riffa
KIck-off: 19:30 hours (UTC+3)

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