Dubai: United Arab Emirates must win or risk falling behind in the race to qualify for the FIFA World Cup when they host Islamic Republic of Iran in what looms as a pivotal AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar clash on Thursday.
Already four points behind Team Melli following back-to-back draws against Lebanon and Syria, Bert van Marwijk’s side will be eager to make the most of the two home games in the next five days, with Iraq to visit Dubai next Tuesday.
Two wins from those matches would take the United Arab Emirates considerably closer to their first FIFA World Cup since their solitary 1990 appearance, but a pair of defeats has the potential to derail their campaign.
AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar: Facts and Stats
Kuala Lumpur: Matchdays Three and Four of the AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar promise to be thrilling affairs as the 12 teams look to enhance their hopes of reaching the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Finals.
Some will head into the next round of matches boosted by their recent form while others will need to up their game if they are to stay in the race for the four automatic Qatar 2022 spots.
Join the-AFC.com as we take a look at the facts and stats the teams will have to contend with going into Matchday Three.
AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar: How Group A stands
Kuala Lumpur: With the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar returning on October 7 for another crucial pair of double-headers, the-AFC.com brings you up to speed with how things look in Group A.
After two rounds of fixtures, the heavyweights of Islamic Republic of Iran and Korea Republic have already stamped their authority on the group, with the Iranians leading the way following back-to-back wins over Syria and Iraq, and the Koreans two points back after drawing against Iraq and beating Lebanon.
Dragan Skocic's Iran have been arguably the most impressive side in the AFC Asian Qualifiers to date, with Alireza Jahanbakhsh rediscovering his mojo since returning to the Eredivisie to join Feyenoord. The former Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder netted the only goal on Matchday One as his side edged Syria before opening the scoring in an emphatic 3-0 win over neighbours Iraq.
AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar: How Group B stands
Kuala Lumpur: The AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar moves on to its Matchday Three and Four fixtures with the next set of games taking place on October 7 and 12 and the six sides in Group B returning for more vital match-ups.
A huge shock on Matchday One saw Oman defeat Japan in Osaka to gain the best possible start, while powerhouses Saudi Arabia and Australia began with two wins from two. China PR and Vietnam, meanwhile, both suffered back-to-back defeats.
Leading the way at present is Graham Arnold's Australia, who got off to a flying start as goals from Awer Mabil, Martin Boyle and Mitchell Duke secured a comfortable 3-0 win over China in Doha, before Rhyan Grant's first international goal edged a narrow 1-0 victory against Vietnam in Hanoi.