Asian qualifiers for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ resume this weekend after a two-month break. With only a third of matches played so far in each group, there is still much at stake.
Both Korea Republic and Korea DPR can go one step closer to the final round, while Uzbekistan and United Arab Emirates can consolidate their positions. Saudi Arabia and Iran, for their part, will have home advantage to get their stuttering campaigns back on track.
Group 3: Koreans poised to establish dominance
Korea Republic-Jordan, Seoul, 31 May, 20:00 (local time)
All eyes will be on Korea Republic's foreign-based players, whose performances were decidedly below par during the goalless draw with Korea DPR in March. Coach Huh Jung-Moo, who said he would even rule out star Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-Sung if he was not fit enough, had been in China PR last weekend to watch Jordan's warm-up match on Sunday. The 2-0 reverse was certainly not a good result for the Jordanians, who played out a goalless draw with the Taeguk Warriors in the AFC Asian Cup China 2004.
Turkmenistan-Korea DPR, Ashgabat, 2 June, 17:00 (local
This will be only the second time the two sides have met, following their 1-1 draw at the Asian Games in 1998. Two decades on, Turkmenistan are again on the brink of elimination from another continental competition. After two consecutive defeats, they must win to stand any chance of progressing to the next round. Korea DPR, on the other hand, have fond memories of a recent trip to Central Asia, as they beat Mongolia 4-1 in the first round last October.
Group 4: Uzbeks eye perfect record
Singapore-Uzbekistan, Singapore, 2 June, 19:30 (local time)
Uzbekistan are one of the two teams to have won twice, and they have not conceded a goal in the opening games of the competition. In fact, they have kept clean sheets in their five previous FIFA World Cup qualifiers and will be hoping to extend their 523-minute record when they face Singapore on Monday. For their part, the Lions can put themselves level on points with the Uzbeks if they win, although they seemed to lack the finishing touch in a 1-0 loss to Bahrain on Wednesday.
Saudi Arabia-Lebanon, Riyadh, 2 June, 21:00 (local time)
Saudi Arabia's record looks even more impressive, as they have won all of past 15 matches at home, including Saturday's 1-0 victory against Syria. The Saudis went on to beat Kuwait 2-1 three days later, while Lebanon succumbed to a 2-1 defeat by Qatar on Wednesday ahead of their trip to Riyadh. Only a win could keep Lebanon's qualifying hopes alive.
Group 5: Iran's chance to go top
Iran-United Arab Emirates, Tehran, 2 June, 17:00 (local time)
Ali Daei's Team Melli take on leaders United Arab Emirates at home, hoping to leapfrog them into pole position with their first victory in the qualifying campaign. The Iranians warmed up for this encounter with a thrilling 3-2 win over Zambia on Sunday. Although the UAE have never won or even scored against Iran in seven previous encounters, the Gulf side will be eager to mark their 60th FIFA World Cup qualifying match with a positive result.
Syria-Kuwait, Damascus, 2 June, 20:00 (local time)
After two draws in their opening games, the Syrians are on the up with two friendly wins over Oman and Iraq earlier this month. Although they went down 1-0 to Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on Saturday, Mohammed Kwid's charges will have the psychological edge on the Kuwait, who have yet to record a win in their previous ten games this year.