Matchday 2 of Asia's final qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ is set to capture the imagination as the continent's top-ranked trio, all of whom figured prominently at South Africa 2010, take the stage. Both Australia and Korea Republic open with challenging tasks in Oman and Qatar, while Japan will be hoping to cement their place at the top with a home win against Jordan. In the remaining match, Lebanon and Uzbekistan square off in Beirut needing to bounce back from opening defeats.
Asian final qualifying round, matchday 2 fixtures:
Group A: Qatar-Korea Republic, Lebanon-Uzbekistan
Group B: Japan-Jordan, Oman-Australia
Holger Osieck's star-studded side travel to Oman with a score to settle, having lost 1-0 in Muscat during the previous round seven months ago. It was at the time only the German coach's third defeat in charge of the Socceroos. Despite trailing by 73 places in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, the unfancied hosts have proven their worth on home soil. In the two sides' first meeting during the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, the Omanis stunned the Australians with a 1-1 draw. Osieck's charges may have recorded a 3-0 home win last year but Paul Le Guen’s outfit responded in the return leg with Amad Al Hosni scoring the only goal.
Both teams enter the re-match seeking to push aside some losing form. The visitors suffered a 2-0 warm-up loss against Denmark, while Oman conceded three unanswered goals in Japan on Sunday as they opened the final qualifying campaign in disappointing fashion. The revitalised Mark Bresciano will drive the midfield, while Josh Kennedy comes in to reinforce the attack alongside Harry Kewell and Alex Brosque, both of whom squandered a series of chances against Denmark. The home side, however, will miss playmaker Fouzi Bashir through suspension and midfielder Ahmed Hadid through injury, although Eid Al Farsi is back from suspension to shore up the defence.
The other attractions
Group A top seeds Korea Republic arrive in Doha facing a confident Qatar, with the hosts hoping to build on their 1-0 opening victory in Lebanon. The two teams' last FIFA World Cup meeting dates back 23 years, when they played out a goalless draw. While Paulo Autuori's hosts will look to their home support, Choi Kang-Hee's visitors can count on their Qatari experience with as many as three players plying their trade in the Gulf nation. To make the best of their knowledge of the rivals, the Korean manager has even handed the captain's armband temporarily from centre-back Kwak Tae-Hwi to partner Lee Jung-Soo, who is playing with Qatari giants Al Sadd. Also shoring up the Taeguk Warriors defence is Al Rayyan centre-back Cho Yong-Hyung while Qatari champions Lekhwiya's recent signing Nam Tae-Hee could feature in midfield.
The section’s other game pits together two losing sides from the opening round, with both hosts Lebanon and Uzbekistan hoping to bounce back after a disappointing start. And it is the Central Asians that boast a clear mental edge going into the contest, having firing four unanswered goals past Lebanon over two legs on the road to South Africa 2010. Despite losing to a late goal against Iran which cost coach Vadim Abramov his job, replaced by Mirjalol Qosimov, the Uzbeks are boosted by the return of five suspended players, notably captain Server Djeparov who was on target as they crushed the Cedars in their last encounter. Coach Theo Bucker's home side, still missing the services of talisman Roda Antar and Mahmoud El Ali, must put the 1-0 defeat to Qatar behind them as they aim to put their campaign back on track.
Asian champions Japan welcome Jordan seeking to maintain their leading place in Group B with a second home win. Boasting a 57-place lead ahead of the Jordanians in the global ranking, the hosts have yet to historically produce an overwhelming result to match the gulf that exists between the pair in status, with only a penalty shoot-out victory sandwiched by two 1-1 draws in continental competition. To counter the home side's slick passing and pacy attack, visiting coach Adnan Hamad is likely to employ a defensive strategy with a lone striker. His counterpart Alberto Zaccheroni, meanwhile, is looking to their overseas-based forward line-up in Stuttgart’s Shinji Okazaki and Shinji Kagawa, who recently secured a high-profile move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United.
Player to watch
In the absence of Arsenal striker Park Chu-Young, Lee Dong-Gook is expected to shoulder the goal-scoring duties having been in prolific form for club and country over the past year.
5 - Japan target their fifth consecutive FIFA World Cup appearance, while Uzbekistan seek their maiden qualification in their fifth attempt.
What they said
"There is no point in talking about that match (the 3-0 loss in Japan). Whatever has happened has happened. Let us close the chapter and move forward to focus on the Australia match," Oman Football Association President Sayyid Khalid