AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar: Ones to Watch (Group B)
Kuala Lumpur: The AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar returns in the coming days with Matchdays Five and Six to be played on Thursday and Tuesday as the 12 sides continue their quest to reach the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Ahead of the crucial upcoming qualifiers, the-AFC.com highlights some of the key players to look out for in Group B.
AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar: 5 Things To Look Out For
Kuala Lumpur: The AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar campaign reaches its midway stage on Thursday as the 12 teams continue their quest for a place at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in the Matchday Five fixtures.
There is plenty of buzz around the next set of qualifiers, with Australia finally returning home, Vietnamese fans set to witness their team in the final stage of qualifying for the first time and Saudi Arabia looking to continue a perfect 2021.
Ahead of the six match-ups, the-AFC.com has selected five things to look out for.
Preview - Group A: Iraq, Syria face off to keep hopes alive
Doha: Thursday’s AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar Group A clash between Iraq and Syria bears the hallmarks of a final as the two sides battle to pick up a first win at the halfway stage of the qualifiers.
It is a clash of the bottom two sides in the group, with Syria having picked up just one point from their first four games - a draw against the United Arab Emirates, while Iraq have fared slightly better - losing just once against the Islamic Republic of Iran but drawing their other three games.
Preview - Group A: Lebanon looking forward to IR Iran test
Saida: Lebanon captain Hassan Maatouk will miss his country’s Group A clash in the AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar 2022 against the Islamic Republic of Iran on Thursday with a shoulder injury as Ivan Hasek’s side look to build on last month’s win over Syria.
The Lebanese will host the Group A leaders, who dropped their first points of the campaign when they drew with Korea Republic in Tehran in October, at Saida Municipal Stadium in Saidon sitting in third place following their victory against the Syrians in Amman.
Preview - Group A: Korea Republic, UAE to lock horns in crucial match-up
Goyang: Korea Republic will look to strengthen their position in the top two of Group A while the United Arab Emirates are aiming to pick up their first win in the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar when the pair square off at Goyang Stadium on Thursday.
Korea sit in second place in the standings, two points behind the Islamic Republic of Iran, having won two and drawn two of their first four games as they target an incredible 10th successive appearance at the FIFA World Cup.
The Emiratis, meanwhile, have been tough to beat but have yet to pick up a victory, after drawing three of their four games, and they will be looking to pick up a result in Goyang to reignite their hopes of a top-three finish.
Preview - Group B: Australia wary of Saudi Arabia disrupting homecoming
Sydney: Australia are relishing playing on home soil for the first time in over two years, but those celebrations will come to an abrupt end if Graham Arnold’s side fail to defeat Saudi Arabia in Thursday’s crucial AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar clash at Western Sydney Stadium.
Forced to play home matches thousands of kilometres away from home due to Australia’s recently loosened pandemic travel restrictions, the Socceroos have seldom missed a beat on the Road to Qatar, stringing together 11 consecutive wins to put themselves well in contention for a fifth successive FIFA World Cup appearance.
But last month’s 2-1 defeat to Japan, coupled with Saudi Arabia’s own relentless run of wins, means Thursday’s match looms as an early six-pointer in the race to secure one of the two direct qualification spots on offer in Group B.
With nine points from four matches, Australia know a win in front of an anticipated 25,000 fans will send them to the top of the standings at the halfway point of the group, but defeat will see them fall six points adrift of the Green Falcons, while their three-point advantage over third placed Japan could vanish if the Socceroos slip up.
Preview - Group B: China PR aiming to get back on track against Oman
Sharjah: The race for qualification spots in Group B of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar resumes on Thursday as China PR and Oman look to close the gap on the top two when they lock horns at Sharjah Stadium.
Unable to host matches at home due to COVID-19 restrictions, China PR return to Sharjah which had also served as their adopted home ground in the previous round of the qualifiers.
Preview - Group B: Vietnam seek first points, Japan aim to close in on top two
Hanoi: For the first time in the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar campaign, Vietnam will have the benefit of home support with fans permitted into My Dinh Stadium for the match against Japan on Thursday.
Having suffered four straight defeats, the hosts will be looking to pick up their first points in Group B, while Japan, - who lost two of their first three games - will be aiming to build on the momentum from beating Australia 2-1 last month.
The fixture also marks a repeat of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 quarter-final, when Japan edged into the semi-finals following a Ritsu Doan penalty at Dubai’s Al Maktoum Stadium.