The opening round of Asian qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ kicked off on Wednesday, with home advantage playing a telling role in first-leg results. Six of the eight teams who played on home soil gained an all-important boost ahead of their return fixtures, which are set to take place on Sunday. FIFA.com reviews all the qualifying action in Asia and more as the preliminary road to Brazil 2014 begins to take shape.
Vietnam may already be eyeing the second round of qualifying after a 6-0 thrashing of Macau, while Bangladesh and Cambodia recorded 3-0 and 4-2 victories over Pakistan and Laos respectively. However, the day was not as easy on Malaysia and Nepal, who were made to sweat in narrow 2-1 wins over Taipei and Timor-Leste. Mongolia, meanwhile, managed to edge Myanmar 1-0.
Things were not all rosy for Sri Lanka, though, who dropped a first-half lead to draw 1-1 with Philippines. Afghanistan, who played in the Tajikistani city of Tursunzade, fell 2-0 to Palestine.
The big game
Cambodia 4-2 Laos
Cambodia coach Lee Tae-Hoon had urged his players to give it their all in their opener against Laos, and must have been pleased with the result as the victory was much harder to come by than the scoreline reflects. The Cambodians were initially stunned when Laos took the lead after ten minutes through Phomsouvanh Manolom.
The hosts searched for an equaliser, but were made to wait until the second half. Khuon Laboravy levelled the score seven minutes after the restart, and soon thereafter, Sam El Nasa put Cambodia in the lead. But in a back-and-forth encounter, with chances for each side, Laos cut Cambodia’s celebrations short just two minutes later. Manolom added a second, creating for a nervy finish. Kouch Sokumpheak played heroine, however, and restored the Cambodians lead before El Nasa put the result beyond doubt just one minute from time.
Nepal 2-1 Timor-Leste
Few questioned Nepal’s odds against Timor-Leste ahead of their match at Kathmandu’s Dashrath Rangasala Stadium. Nepal stamped their authority on the match, with Anil Gurung opening the scoring from the penalty spot in the 14th minute. Timor-Leste had other ideas in mind, though, and sought to draw the match level.
Just two minutes after the restart, Juvito Da Silva netted the equaliser, putting Timor-Leste well within a chance of an upset as Nepal’s hope suffered a blow. The hosts were reduced to ten men just ten minutes into the second half when Bharat Khawas was given his marching orders. The match was either sides to claim, but Ju Manu Rai eased the home crowds’ worries with the game-winner 19 minutes from time.
The other headline-grabbers
Vietnam proved too tough an adversary for Macau, defeating the minnows 6-0 on the back of a hat-trick from ace-striker Le Cong Vinh and three others added by Thanh Luong Pham, Nguyen Ngoc Thanh and Nguyen Van Quyet. The resounding win not only saw their new manager Falko Gotz get his tenure off to a bright start, but also left the opponents with a near mission impossible going into the return game.
Also in confident mood were Bangladesh, who made fairly light work of Pakistan. Within one minute the hosts were ahead through Zahid Hasan Emily, while Mohamed Zahid Hossain doubled the advantage midway through the first half. Pakistan intensified their attack after the interval, but their hopes of a comeback were crushed when Rethul Karim sealed the 3-0 victory on the hour-mark.
Tsend-Ayush Khurelbaatar scored a vital goal in Mongolia 1-0 win over Myanmar, while in the continent's West, Palestine had little problem seeing off Afghanistan 2-0 with goals from Hilal Al Quds and Ismail Alamour.
Malaysia edged out Chinese Taipai 2-1 in a closely-contested encounter. Safiq Rahim and Mohd Aidil Radzak had given Malaysia the lead, but Chen Po Liang pulled one back for Chinese Tapai with 13 minutes left to the match. And despite dropping the first-leg, Chinese Taipai are still well in contention to progress, with a 1-0 home win enough to see them through on Sunday.
Finally, Philippines were able to hold Sri Lanka to a 1-1 draw, with Nate Burkey on target shortly after the break to cancel out Chathura Gunarathna’s first-half effort. If Philippines pull off a victory in their second leg in four days time, they will edge out their round-one opponents to book their passage into the next round.
Despite being on the losing end of the day’s result, Laos striking prodigy Phomsouvanh Manolom stole the show by bagging a brace in his side’s first-leg contest with Cambodia. The 19-year-old had levelled the score at 2-2 before Cambodia ran out to a 4-2 victory and has proved his scoring touch will be key should Laos be able to reverse their first-leg deficit on Sunday.
1 – Bangladesh opened their match against Pakistan in convincing fashion, with Zahid Hasan scoring for the hosts within one minute of the game's start - the fastest goal scored in the first round.
What they said
"Despite the narrow win we didn't lose or draw. Some changes have to be made due to injuries, but nevertheless I am confident we can advance." Malaysia coach Datuk K. Rajagobal
Asia's first round of qualifying (first-leg) results:
Malaysia 2-1 Chinese Taipei
Bangladesh 3-0 Pakistan
Cambodia 4-2 Laos
Sri Lanka 1-1 Philippines
Afghanistan 0-2 Palestine
Vietnam 6-0 Macau
Nepal 2-1 Timor Leste
Mongolia 1-0 Myanmar