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Asian Qualifiers - Group C Preview: Race resumes as Bahrain, Iraq, IR Iran chase top spot

Muharraq: The battle for top spot in Group C of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 continues on Monday with Bahrain, Iraq and Islamic Republic of Iran in contention. 

Bahrain jumped into pole position after last Thursday's 8-0 defeat of Cambodia to move to 12 points - one ahead of Iraq who have a match in hand.

Iran, who have also only played five matches so far, moved to nine points after their 3-1 win over Hong Kong.

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Iraq, who will be playing their first Asian Qualifiers tie since the 0-0 draw with Bahrain in November 2019, will be confident of claiming all three points against Cambodia at the Sheikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Stadium, which could be enough for them to regain top spot with Iran and Bahrain playing later on Monday.

Iraq defeated Cambodia 4-0 when the two teams met in October 2019, and head coach Srecko Katanec will urge his players to hit the ground running against the Southeast Asian side.

Iraq kept busy despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with the 2007 AFC Asian Cup winners playing eight friendlies in the buildup to the resumption of the Asian Qualifiers and Slovenian Katanec will expect maximum points against Cambodia.

Cambodia's hopes of advancing to the third round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 evaporated a long time ago but a strong finish could see them avoid finishing last in Group C.

More importantly, a fourth place finish could mean avoiding the playoff for the third round of the Asian Qualifiers for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 and head coach Ryu Hirose will urge his players to give maximum effort against Iraq in a bid to add to the one point Cambodia have so far.

Iraq v Cambodia
Venue: Sheikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Stadium, Muharraq
Kick-off: Monday, 17:30 hours (UTC+3)


The battle between Iran and Bahrain promises to be spectacular, as a win for either side could make a huge difference in the final outcome of Group C.

Team Melli returned to form with their 3-1 win over Hong Kong last Thursday, reviving their top spot aspirations and with a match in hand, head coach Dragan Skocic will expect his side to take the game to hosts Bahrain.

Bahrain, however, will also fancy their chances as they will head into the tie boosted by their win over Cambodia and, more importantly, in the knowledge that they have already defeated Iran in the Asian Qualifiers - with Mohamed Al Hardan scoring the only goal in their October 2019 meeting.

Iran's strikeforce may be awesome but Komail Al Aswad, Ali Madan and Ismaeel Abdulatif all scored twice each against Cambodia and head coach Helio Sousa will be happy with the fact that his team have multiple sources for goals against a team seeking to qualify for their third consecutive FIFA World Cup Finals.

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

*Polls end on June 7, 23:00 hours (UTC+8)

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