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Asian Qualifiers – Group F Preview: Japan seek perfect end; Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic in bid for second place, Myanmar look to end on a high

Osaka: The battle for second place in Group F of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 will reach its climax on Tuesday when hosts Japan take on Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan face bottom side Myanmar. 

While Japan are out of sight as group winners, there is still plenty to play for elsewhere. Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic still have hopes of advancing to the final round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers while a point for Myanmar could see the Southeast Asians progress to the final round of AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifying.

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Hajime Moriyasu's Japan will look to round off their Group F campaign with an eighth win from eight when they go up against second-placed Kyrgyz Republic at Panasonic Stadium Suita, where victory would conclude a near faultless phase of qualifying.

Since the Asian Qualifiers resumed in Japan in late May, the Samurai Blue have seen off Myanmar 10-0 and beaten Tajikistan 4-1 as they confirmed their place at the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 and in the final round of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers with minimal fuss.

Kyogo Furuhashi, Takumi Minamino, Kento Hashimoto and Hayao Kawabe were all on the scoresheet when the East Asians proved too good for Tajikistan on June 7, with the game proving particularly significant for Minamino.

The Liverpool forward's goal meant he matched Keisuke Honda's record of having netted in seven straight Asian Qualifiers and Minamino will now look break the record by continuing his highly impressive scoring streak.

Kyrgyz Republic currently occupy second place in the standings, ahead of Tajikistan on goal difference, although the Central Asians would need an unlikely set of results to advance to the final round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers.

A 1-0 loss to Mongolia on June 7 ultimately could ultimately prove costly, although Aleksandr Krestinin's side were able to bounce back with a resounding 8-1 victory over Myanmar on Friday in game that saw captain Mirlan Murzaev score a hat-trick.

A win against Japan coupled with Myanmar securing a point or more against Tajikistan could see Kyrgyz Republic finish as one of the five best runners-up, although such a scenario would also be dependent on results elsewhere.

Kairat Zhyrgalbek Uulu and Tamirlan Kozubaev return from suspension for Kyrgyz Republic, who lost 2-0 to Japan when the sides met in the reverse fixture in Bishkek back in November 2019.

Japan vs Kyrgyz Republic
Venue: Panasonic Stadium Suita, Osaka
Kick-off: June 15, 19:25 (UTC+9)


Tajikistan will attempt to bounce back from defeat to Japan when they go head to head with Group F's bottom side Myanmar at Yanmar Stadium Nagai on Tuesday.

With second place in the standings on the line, the Tajiks know that if they can better the result of neighbours Kyrgyz Republic then they will finish second in the standings and give themselves a chance of advancing to the final round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers.

Usmon Toshev's team put up a fight against the Japanese in their last outing as Ehson Panjshanbe's equaliser cancelled out Furuhashi's opener before they eventually went down 4-1.

They must now respond with victory over Myanmar and hope that results elsewhere go their way if they are to finish as one of the top five runners-up; however, they will be wary of the threat posed by Myanmar.

When the sides met in Yangon earlier in the campaign, Myanmar produced one of the standout results of the current round of qualifying as Maung Maung Lwin scored the decisive goal in a 4-3 win for the Southeast Asians. .

Myanmar sit bottom of the group ahead of their final fixture, but a point against the Tajiks could prove significant as they would finish above fourth-placed Mongolia and enhance their chances of progressing directly into the final round of AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Qualifiers.

Head coach Antoine Hey will once more be able to call upon striker Suan Lam Mang, who scored twice in the 4-3 win over the Tajiks, after he served his one-match suspension last time out.

Tajikistan v Myanmar
Venue: Yanmar Stadium Nagai, Osaka
Kick-off: June 15, 19:25 (UTC+9)

*Polls end at 18:00 (UTC+8) on June 15.

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