Kuala Lumpur: Qatar will aim to get back to winning ways while Oman will be hoping to snatch the top spot should the reigning Asian champions stumble again in Group E of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Asian Qualifiers.
Qatar make their first away trip of the campaign to face Bangladesh in Dhaka, while Oman return to action on home soil against Afghanistan, with the two Gulf nations vying for the summit of the group.
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The journey so far
BANGLADESH vs QATAR
With their place at the FIFA World Cup 2022 already confirmed as hosts, Qatar’s journey towards defending their AFC Asian Cup throne started brightly with a 6-0 defeat of Afghanistan in September, but sentiment in Doha took a 180 turn on Matchday Two.
Alarm bells were sent ringing after an expectant crowd at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium were left frustrated by a goalless draw against an India side ranked 42 places below the reigning Asian champions.
The chance to rectify their path comes on Thursday with a trip to Bangladesh, where their previous encounter ended in a 4-1 win in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. Back then, Wisam Rizq and Adel Lamy scored in the first half while the recently retired Khalfan Ibrahim bagged a brace to render Mohammed Arman’s sole strike for Bangladesh merely consolation.
Head coach Felix Sanchez will be without the services of tenacious midfielder Assim Madibo who underwent surgery after an ankle injury sustained with his club side earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the eight-man-strong Al Sadd contingent in the camp will look to pick themselves up following a heavy 4-1 home defeat to Al Hilal in the AFC Champions League semi-final.
And while their 187th FIFA ranking is no match to Qatar’s 62nd place, Bangladesh will be encouraged by their performance in the narrow 1-0 defeat to Afghanistan on the opening matchday of the Asian Qualifiers.
Key for the hosts is to be able to stop striker Almoez Ali; the 23-year-old has 17 goals in his last 18 Qatar appearances, including a hat-trick against the Afghans on Matchday One.
BANGLADESH vs QATAR
Venue: Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka
Kick-off: 1900 hours (UTC +6)
OMAN vs AFGHANISTAN
It will be second vs third in Muscat as Oman face Afghanistan for the first time in a competitive match. Both sides have three points to their name, but the hosts have played one game less than their opponents.
They needed a world class solo effort from Monthir Al Alawi in the dying seconds, but the Omanis will nonetheless be delighted with the three valuable points snatched from the home of a tough India side on Matchday One. A relatively less complicated task awaits them at home.
A strong home form plays to the Omanis' favour. The Reds have not conceded in their last three competitive games on home soil, winning all three and scoring a whopping total of 20 goals. And while this is their first encounter in the Qualifiers, Oman and Afghanistan faced-off in a friendly in March with the Gulf nation walking away 5-0 winners.
Erwin Koeman’s men will have an eye on the Qatar game as a slip up by the group leaders will allow them to climb to the top spot with a win against Afghanistan on Thursday.
Having been promoted from his previous post as assistant to German boss Otto Pfister, 29-year-old coach Anoush Dastgir is one of the youngest on the international stage, and his squad, assembled largely from the Afghan diaspora across the planet, has produced some fresh performances.
A 1-0 win over Bangladesh got their campaign kick-started after the 6-0 humbling in Qatar, and Dastgir’s side will aim to better their nine-point tally from the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers campaign.
OMAN v AFGHANISTAN
Venue: Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, Muscat
Kick-off: 1900 hours (UTC +4)
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