The hosts have their sights set on victories as Asia's third round of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ resumes on Monday 2 June. Home support and comforts aside, the hosts enter the third matchday with the edge of having not had to travel.
Australia will be hoping to strengthen their grip on Group 1 when they host Iraq, while Qatar will do their utmost to extend their unbeaten home record against China PR. Group 2 strugglers Thailand are expected to make best use of their home advantage against Bahrain, while hosts Japan resume their rivalry with Oman.
Group 1: Qatar count on home comforts
Qatar-China, Doha, 2 June, 19:00 (local time)
Qatar coach Jorge Fossati has plenty of reasons to feel confident ahead of the clash with China. Firstly, his team's morale received a timely boost with a 2-0 win over Iraq in their last qualifier on 26 March. Furthermore, the team can be particularly resilient at home, as evidenced by twice holding China to 1-1 draws in qualifying for France 1998 and Korea/Japan 2002 in the stifling heat of Doha. While the Qataris will again be looking to make their home-field advantage count, Vladimir Petrovic's China will be drawing inspiration from a 2-0 win over Jordan in a recent friendly and seem ready to mount a serious challenge against the hosts this time around.
Australia-Iraq, Brisbane, 1 June, 17:00 (local time)
For coach Pim Verbeek and his Australia team, Monday's match will be an opportunity to avenge their 3-1 defeat by Iraq in last July's AFC Asian Cup. The Aussies are unbeaten in their last 36 FIFA World Cup qualifiers played at home, their last loss coming on 16 May when they fell to New Zealand 2-0. The Socceroos also impressed in a recent 1-0 friendly win over Ghana with a squad consisting largely of home-based players. The inclusion of their overseas stars, naturally, will further improve their chances against Iraq. While spirits among the Aussies will be high, morale in the Iraqi camp will be rock-bottom as they sit at the foot of the section with only one point to their name. A pair of 2-1 losses to Syria and Thailand in recent friendlies seem to indicate Adnan Hamad's team have their work cut out.
Group 2: Japan plan to bounce back
Japan-Oman, Tokyo, 2 June, 19:20 (local time)
Despite a 1-0 loss to Bahrain in their last qualifier, coach Takeshi Okada's Japan boast a proud record at home. They have won their last eight qualifiers in front of their fans. In their bid for the previous finals at Germany 2006, they beat Oman 1-0 in both legs. This aside, the Japanese can also take heart from the return of Celtic playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura. "I felt a sense of crisis after we lost to Bahrain," Nakamura said, "so we must pile up the points as soon as possible."
Thailand-Bahrain, Bangkok, 2 June, 18:30 (local time)
An away win over Thailand in Bangkok will further strengthen Bahrain's grip on the group. But their Czech coach Milan Macala knows they will need to respect their rather unpredictable rivals, who held Iraq before beating Oman as co-hosts in last July's Asian Cup. Despite losing their first two matches against Japan and Oman, Thailand have not thrown in the towel and a home win would keep their hopes alive. A recent 2-1 friendly victory over Iraq showed they are more than capable of raising their game to challenge any of Asia's powers.