The race for the top scorer position in the Asian Zone qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ is wide open, with some of the strong candidates losing chances to compete following the elimination of their countries.
For instance, current leader Sarayoot Chaikamdee looks almost certain to step down from pole position with his country Thailand bowing out of the preliminary competition in the third round, while Syria's impressive duo of Ziad Chabo and Raja Rafe are likely to see their names slowly fade away from the top ten.
In the meantime, Maksim Shatskikh of Uzbekistan took his tally to eight goals to equal Chaikamdee's record, and Qatar's five-goal hero Sebastian Quintana has come within range of challenging at the summit. FIFA.com takes a look at some of the continent's top marksmen who are aiming for glory.
Maksim Shatskikh (UZB), 8 goals
At the start of the third round of matches, Shatskikh had five goals to his name and got his sixth in a stunning 3-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in March. Although he added another to round off a 7-3 thriller in Singapore in June, the Uzbek captain failed to live up to the expectation as he could not find the net again in the third round. But his four-match goal-drought finally came to an end last month, when he opened the scoring from close range in a 1-1 draw with Japan.
Sebastian Quintana (QAT), 5 goals
Having scored three goals against Sri Lanka in the first round of qualifiers, Quintana registered his fourth from the spot against China PR in the third round. In the following three matches, however, Quintana could not find the net despite playing every minute of those games. And it took 352 minutes for the Uruguayan-born striker to end the drought, firing home his fifth against Bahrain in September.
Ismail Matar (UAE), 5 goals
Things look more difficult for Matar, who is a playmaker rather than a striker in a struggling UAE side. In fact, the star of the 2003 FIFA U-20 World Cup failed to score in three games in the fourth round, his latest goal being a late penalty in a 3-1 defeat at home to Syria - against whom he scored an equaliser back in March. Nevertheless, his fans will want to see him celebrate in style as he did twice against Kuwait in June.
Brett Emerton (AUS), 4 goals
Australia's Brett Emerton jumped into top ten with four goals, thanks to his brace in a 4-0 drubbing of Qatar last month. The Blackburn Rovers star, who also hit the target twice against the same opponents in the previous qualifying round, has scored 11 goals over the course of three preliminary competitions.
Hong Yong Jo (PRK), 4 goals
The North Korean goalpoacher has been consistent throughout the qualifying campaign. After opening his account with an audacious free-kick in a 1-0 win over Jordan in the third round, Hong almost single-handedly led his country into the final round with his brace against the same opponents in June. His fourth and the latest goal came from the spot during a ‘Korean derby' with southern neighbours Korea Republic, after he had been pulled down in the area.