The penultimate Matchday in Asia's final qualifying round for London 2012 on Wednesday could see a host of new faces advance closer to an unlikely qualification for London 2012. Oman will move top with a home win against a Korea Republic side who are searching for their ninth consecutive Olympic appearance. Victory for Uzbekistan will go close to guaranting their progress, while Japan and Syria are engaged in a tense battle in the remaining group. Join FIFA.com as we take a closer look at the action.
Group A leaders Korea Republic arrive in Muscat with the aim of booking early passage with a triumph over the hosts. Hong Myung-Bo's visitors may enter the contest with a mental edge having emerged 2-0 victors in Seoul last September, however, they will undoubtedly be mindful of their less-convincing away form, which has seen them held to two 1-1 draws in both Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Oman, for their part, have improved dramatically since their opening defeat to the Koreans. Hamad Al Azzani's hopefuls inflicted a 2-0 upset on much-favoured Saudi Arabia before drawing 2-2 against Qatar in their last outing. The results, coupled with a 3-0 win awarded after the Qataris fielding an ineligible player in a 1-1 draw in November’s meeting, have left Oman’s hopes very much bolstered.
A week-long camp in United Arab Emirates should see the east Asians take to the field fully-prepared and coach Hong has a full-strength team at his disposal including pivotal midfielders Yoon Bitgaram and Kim Bo-Kyung, both of whom were on target in the last meeting against Oman. Al Azzani has recently called up Al Wahda defender Mohamad Al Sheiba although the hosts will miss injured forward Hamood Al Sadi.
The other attractions
In the section's other game, Qatar entertain bottom side Saudi Arabia focussing their energies on a second-place finish and a play-off berth. Although their Brazilian manager Paulo Autuori has recently left to coach the nation's senior side, the Qataris are all too aware anything less than three points is likely to end their London 2012 aspirations.
In Group B, Australia's wafer-thin hopes lie with victory against a United Arab Emirates side who recently moved to the top, level with Uzbekistan on eight points, after also being awarded a 3-0 win against Iraq, with a 2-0 loss overturned due to the opponent's fielding an ineligible player. The west Asian hosts are buoyed by their recent 2-1 warm-up win over Chinese side Dalian Shide, while Aurelio Vidmar's Olyroos enter the game still in desperate search of their opening goal and victory after four matches.
Despite the unexpected 2-1 defeat to Syria which conceded top place in Group C to the west Asians, Japan are confident of bouncing back in style, with coach Takashi Sekizuka fixing his sights on a big win against the already-eliminated Malaysia. Leading the Japanese on goals scored, the Syrians may need to win by a significant margin if they are to maintain pole position.
Player to watch
A creative player also renowned for scoring crucial goals, Kim Bo-Kyung netted twice as Korea Republic stormed into the last eight at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Egypt 2009. Having sealed the 2-0 win over Oman, he went on to score the equaliser in added time against Saudi Arabia in the qualifying campaign.
2 - Oman and Uzbekistan can ensure Asia has two debutants at London 2012 if they qualify, while Syria can enjoy an encore on the global stage having featured at Moscow 1980.
What they said
"We've still got a lot to play for, but if we don't win then we're definitely gone. Maybe it's time we stopped doing tactical work at training and concentrated a bit more on shooting. We still can't hit the back of the net," Australia coach Aurelio Vidmar
Matchday 5 fixtures
Wednesday 22 February
Group A: Qatar - Saudi Arabia, Oman - Korea Republic
Group B: Iraq - Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates - Australia
Group C: Bahrain - Syria, Malaysia - Japan