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Asian Qualifiers - Group G Preview: Malaysia, Thailand eye top spot as UAE,  Indonesia await

Dubai: Thailand and Malaysia have a chance to move top of Group G of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 with wins on Thursday as they face Indonesia and the UAE respectively.

Vietnam lead the group heading into the restart, but Malaysia or Thailand could be at the summit come the end of the day, while the host nation, having played a game less, can close the gap with a win.

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UAE v Malaysia

Hosting the remaining group games, the UAE restart their campaign where they kicked it all off nearly two years ago, when they face Malaysia.

Syafiq Ahmed opened the scoring for Malaysia within a minute of kick-off in the reverse fixture, but the 43,000 fans at Bukit Jalil National Stadium were silenced as the UAE’s all-time top scorer Ali Mabkhout bagged a goal either side of the break to win it 2-1 for the UAE.

Since that game, Malaysia have fared better than their more experienced opponents, beating Thailand 2-1 and Indonesia 2-0, having earlier lost to Vietnam 1-0. - a sequence of results that sees Malaysia flying in second place, three points ahead of their Thursday opponents, but having played a game more.

AFC Asian Cup runners-up in 1996 and semi-finalists in the last two editions, the UAE have flattered to deceive, conceding away loses to Vietnam and Thailand and finding themselves languishing in fourth and in need of a strong run-in at home if they are to keep alive their hopes of reaching the FIFA World Cup for the second time after 1990.

UAE v Malaysia
Venue: Zabeel Stadium, Dubai
Kick-off: 20:45 hours (UTC+4)

Thailand v Indonesia

Eyeing the top spot of the group, Thailand take on Indonesia knowing that victory would take them beyond current leaders Vietnam, but they would also need the UAE to stop Malaysia if they are to end the week at the summit.

Despite high-profile absences including the likes of Chanathip Songkrasin and Theerathon Bunmathan, coach Akira Nishino’s men will be confident of a win against an Indonesia side that is yet to collect a single point in the group.

Bunmathan slotted home from the spot and Supachok Sarachat scored twice when the two sides last met in Matchday Two, with Thailand cruising to a 3-0 victory. Sarachat will be hopeful of repeating the feat as he leads Thailand’s attacking endeavours.

And while Indonesia’s hopes of qualifying to the third round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers have already vanished, they will have more than pride to play for, with a first win of the campaign still an objective and 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualification remains a mathematical possibility.

Thailand v Indonesia
Venue: Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai
Kick-off: 20:45 hours (UTC+4)

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