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MD1 Preview - Group C: Cast set for tough campaigns

Kuala Lumpur: There will be no margin for error for the four Group C teams who kick off their Asian Qualifiers' campaigns for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on Thursday.

With Islamic Republic of Iran the fifth team in the group, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Bahrain and Iraq will be seeking opening day wins for an early boost to their respective campaigns.

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Cambodia national team general manager Keisuke Honda has called on the fans to pack the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh for Thursday's clash against Hong Kong.

The fans played their part in Cambodia advancing past the first round of the Asian Qualifiers, as the Southeast Asian side saw off the challenge of Pakistan 4-1 on aggregate.

It was a win met with joy and Japanese legend Honda wants the fans backing Cambodia as they seek a first appearance in the AFC Asian Cup Finals since finishing fourth in 1972, the only time the Southeast Asian side have played at the Continental showpiece.

Three opening points will help the Cambodian cause, especially with matches against Iran, Iraq and Bahrain in the horizon.

Matchday One - Group C

Hong Kong will be thinking along similar lines as after Cambodia, they face Iran and a win on Thursday will boost the morale of the East Asians.

Head coach Mixu Paatelainen admitted that Hong Kong are in a tough group but said, even as he eyes a place in the next phase, the long term is the target.

“Cambodia away is not easy at all,” he said. “They’ve been together a wee while and they pass the ball well and they’re a really good unit, so that will be a test on its own, never mind Iran in our next game and then Iraq and Bahrain. I’m looking forward to these tough matches and I’m looking towards the future."

Venue: National Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh
Kick-off: 18:30 (UTC +7)


Bahrain will entertain Iraq just weeks after denying their West Asian neighbours the 2019 WAFF Championship title, which ensures this will be a sizzling tie.

Iraq had been hopeful of winning the title on home soil but Bahrain got just the lift head coach Helio Sousa wanted for the squad ahead of what will be a challenging Asian Qualifiers campaign.

Bahrain, whose AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 journey ended in the Round of 16, finished the 2019 WAFF Championship undefeated with three wins and a draw and Sousa will be expecting them to continue that form, especially as the opening tie will be in Manama.

Iraq were disappointed to miss out on the trophy but with the Asian Qualifiers coming just weeks after their heartbreak, Srečko Katanec's men have a quick chance to show their quality.

The 2007 AFC Asian Cup winners were - despite their campaign being ended by Qatar in the Round of 16 - one of the most exciting teams in UAE 2019 and will be determined to not only seal qualification to China 2023 but also advance to the next phase of qualifying for Qatar 2022.

The young talent Katanec has at his disposal means Iraq will be a handful, not just for Bahrain but also the other teams in the group.

Venue: Bahrain National Stadium, Manama
Kick-off: 19:30 (UTC +3)

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