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.
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: How Group A stands
Kuala Lumpur: The final round of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar campaign enters its midway stage as the sides return for their crucial Matchday Five and Six fixtures on November 11 and 16. Ahead of the games, the-AFC.com gives you an overview of how things look in Group A.
Asian powerhouses Islamic Republic of Iran and Korea Republic already have a strong foothold in the group. Both teams are unbeaten, with leaders Iran starting their campaign with three consecutive wins before a share of the spoils with the Koreans last time out. Two points back, the Taeguk Warriors have won two and drawn two.
Three goals in four games has seen captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh lead the Iran scoring chart. The Feyenoord forward’s superb header against Korea on Matchday Four secured a 1-1 draw to maintain Team Melli’s place at the top of Group A after Mehdi Taremi’s goal had sunk the United Arab Emirates a few days earlier.
AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar: How Group B stands
Kuala Lumpur: With the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar returning on November 11 for another crucial pair of double-headers, the-AFC.com brings you up to speed with how things look in Group B.
Saudi Arabia are the runaway leaders, boasting a perfect record, with Australia keeping up the chase three points back. Oman and Japan come next, while China PR and Vietnam occupy the bottom two places.
Herve Renard’s Saudi Arabia have made a blistering start to the campaign as home wins against Japan and China PR on Matchdays Three and Four added to earlier victories over Vietnam and Oman. They have now won all nine of their games in 2021.
Shomurodov, Azmoun, Furuhashi and Tomiyasu: Vote for your AFC International Player of the Week!
Kuala Lumpur: Another week, another collection of standout performances from the cohort of Asian players currently lighting up football pitches outside the continent.
From England, Germany and Italy to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, Asian stars delivered moments of brilliance and no shortage of goals, with our 10 nominees bagging 15 between them over the last seven days.
So, who deserves this week’s crown? Study our contenders – based on performances from November 2 to 8 – and don’t forget to register your vote.