Vote for your AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar Player of the Week!
Kuala Lumpur: The heat is on as Asia’s best continue to vie for FIFA World Cup qualification on the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar, and the cream is rising to the top.
Continental giants like Islamic Republic of Iran, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia used the November window to edge closer to a place at Qatar 2022, but there were superb individual displays from around the continent as all 12 teams battled to keep their hopes alive.
We’ve picked out eight of the standout individual performers from the week that was. Study our list of contenders and don’t forget to cast your vote.
Moriyasu hails Japan's collective spirit, Ivankovic expects Oman to improve
Muscat: Japan head coach Hajime Moriyasu warned his team not to become complacent after the Samurai Blue handed Oman a 1-0 defeat at the Sultan Qaboos Stadium on Tuesday that moved the six-time FIFA World Cup finalists into the automatic qualification berths for Qatar 2022.
The win came courtesy of a late Junya Ito goal and was Japan’s third in a row in the AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar 2022. Coupled with Australia’s 1-1 draw with China PR in Sharjah, the result sees Moriyasu’s team move into the second place in Group B behind leaders Saudi Arabia with four games remaining.
The first two finishers in the continent’s two preliminary groups will progress to next year’s Finals while the third-placed team will advance into a series of playoffs for a possible fifth Asian berth at the FIFA World Cup.
Mission accomplished for Renard, Park happy with improvement
Hanoi: Herve Renard admitted that it was a case of job done for Saudi Arabia in Vietnam as a hard-fought 1-0 victory at My Dinh Stadium on Tuesday helped the Green Falcons move four points clear at the top of Group B in the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar campaign.
The victory, courtesy of Saleh Al Shehri’s looping header on the half hour, saw the West Asians extend their lead at the top of the standings after Australia, who were second going into Tuesday’s games, dropped points in a draw with China PR as Japan jumped into the second automatic qualification place after defeating Oman.
Five wins from six games, and their unbeaten record still firmly intact, now leaves Renard’s team on course to reach their sixth FIFA World Cup. They will go into 2022 in pole position in Group B, and a home victory over Oman in late January would edge them ever closer to the global showpiece.
We didn’t do enough in draw against China PR, says Australia’s Ryan
Sharjah: Australia goalkeeper Mat Ryan admitted his side didn’t create enough going forward in Thursday’s 1-1 AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar draw against China PR in Sharjah.
The Socceroos went ahead through a Mitch Duke header just before half-time, but a Wu Lei penalty with 20 minutes remaining ensured Australia’s winless run extended to three matches.
The result could prove particularly costly to Graham Arnold’s side, with Japan later leapfrogging them into second place, leaving the Australians staring down the barrel of a return to the playoffs if they can’t improve on their current ranking of third.
'Job not done yet', warns Korea Republic's Bento as Advocaat sees bright Iraq future
Doha: Korea Republic head coach Paulo Bento was impressed with his side’s 3-0 victory over Iraq in Group A of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar, but insisted his men still had some work to do to secure qualification.
A sweeping attacking display from the Taeguk Warriors saw all of Hwang Hee-chan, Son Heung-min and Jeong Woo-young get on the scoresheet as Korea Republic tightened their grip on the second automatic qualification spot, moving eight points clear of their nearest chasers.
Tot full of praise for IR Iran players, Syria's Al Mawas remains hopeful despite loss
Amman: Islamic Republic of Iran assistant coach Marijo Tot heaped praise on his players after an emphatic 3-0 victory over Syria on Matchday Six of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar Group A on Tuesday.
Team Melli needed just over half an hour to open the scoring at King Abdullah II Stadium after Vahid Amiri supplied a fine overhead pass for Sardar Azmoun to give IR Iran the lead. Ehsan Hajsafi doubled the advantage from the spot just before the break and Ali Gholizadeh sealed the victory late on with an impressive solo goal.
Head coach Dragan Skokic’s men extended their unbeaten run in the final stage of the AFC Asian Qualifiers to six games, reaching point 16 at the summit of the group despite the absence of their coach who was suspended for a previous dismissal, with Tot taking duty in his place on the night.
Saida: Lebanon head coach Ivan Hasek couldn’t find words to speak in detail following his side’s 1-0 home defeat at the hands of the United Arab Emirates on Matchday 6 of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar at the Saida Municipal Stadium on Tuesday.
Hasek's men were the better side but failed to convert their chances into goals before Ali Mabkhout successfully slotted home a penalty past Mustafa Matar with five minutes left on the clock.