Four sides will complete the Asian Zone's 20-team field for the third round of 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifying when a quartet of crucial return legs take place in the second round on Sunday.
Following a 4-1 win in Indonesia, Syria sit in the most comfortable position. However, despite a three-goal cushion and home advantage, they will be wary of their East Asian opponents, who have gained a reputation for producing upsets.
Having drawn 0-0 away to Hong Kong, Turkmenistan will enter their second leg expecting to convert home advantage into a passage through to the third round. The Central Asians have made steady progress since reaching the AFC Asian Cup 2004 finals and, buoyed on by their adoring fans, they will be a hard obstacle for their visitors to clear.
Neighbouring Tajikistan, who lost 2-0 to Singapore in their opening leg, have a much more difficult assignment on their hands. However, the Lions will be taking nothing for granted on foreign soil.
High hopes for Thailand
After achieving their initial goal by holding Yemen to a 1-1 draw away, Thailand coach Chanvit Phalajivin believes his team will have few problems in the decisive return leg in Bangkok's Supachalasai stadium, which they have made into a strong fortress.
Thailand, who stand 22 places above Yemen on the latest edition of the FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking, have developed a reputation of being particularly strong at home. They stunned China PR 1-0 in the run-up to July's AFC Asian Cup, where they drew against Iraq 1-1 in the opening game before defeating Oman 2-0.
Coach Phalajivin's team will play without Singapore-based veteran Sutee Suksomkit, who will be on club duties with S-league side Tampines Rovers over the weekend. Therdsak Chaiman will be also missing the game due to an injury.
Despite the difficulties, Thailand can rely on the emerging trio of Suree Sukha, Teerasil Dangda and Kiatprawut Saiwaew, who all impressed in a trial with Manchester City. Defender Suka could be set to become the first player from the Land of Smiles to play in the English Premier League, with City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson headed for Bangkok later this week. For the full-back, helping his side undo Yemen would be an ideal way to underline his quality to his prospective employers.
Asian Zone qualifying, second round, second leg fixtures
Sunday 18 November 2007