Asia Group B: Players to watch

  • continues its analysis of the stars of the third round of Asian qualifiers

  • We put the spotlight on some of the potential game-changers in Group B

  • Six superstars with the ability to get the fans on their feet

The Asian qualifying campaign for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ has now reached its most decisive phase. The 60 matches that make up the third round, which will play out from 2 September 2021 to 29 March 2022, will determine which four teams will represent the continent at next year’s global showpiece.

With the 12 remaining sides split into two groups and the big kick-off scheduled for this Thursday, runs the rule over some of the stars aiming to turn their countries’ dreams of advancing to Qatar 2022 into reality. Having already highlighted the stars of Group A, we have picked out the brightest lights in Group B.

Maya Yoshida JPN

Maya Yoshida - Japan

Defender, 33 A reliable defender, Yoshida has played an important part in Japan’s success of the last ten years. A member of the team that won the 2011 AFC Asian Cup and reached the final of the tournament two years ago in the UAE, he also featured at Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018. Yoshida was also one of the Samurai Blue’s over-age players at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Tokyo 2020. Aside from his extensive international experience, Yoshida has played in Europe’s top leagues, enjoying spells with clubs in the Netherlands, England and Italy, where he is now playing for Sampdoria.

Mathew Ryan AUS

Mathew Ryan - Australia

Goalkeeper, 29 Having appeared at two World Cups and the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017, and won the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia, Ryan brings huge experience to an Australia team that has undergone a transformation, with coach Graham Arnold building a youthful squad since he took charge. Ryan made six appearances in the second round of the Asian qualifiers, conceding a solitary goal and providing a reliable last line of defence for the Australians in their quest to reach the world finals.

Salem Al Dawsari KSA

Salem Al-Dawsari - Saudi Arabia

Midfielder, 30 Having made his international debut in 2012, Al-Dawsari has established himself as one of the superstars of the Saudi game. A goalscorer on debut, against Australia in the Brazil 2014 qualifiers, he appeared at Russia 2018, scoring the winner in the Saudi’s final group-stage match against Egypt. Al-Dawsari has maintained his superb form in the current qualifiers, scoring five goals in as many games and consolidating his status as one of his side’s most lethal attacking weapons.

Wu Lei CHN

Wu Lei - China PR

Forward, 29 Lei is China PR’s leading active goalscorer. Currently plying his trade with Espanyol, he is his national team’s only overseas-based player and its most prominent figure. Handed his first cap in 2010, Lei had to wait three years to fully establish himself, and featured in the qualifying campaign for Russia 2018 and the 2015 and 2019 Asian Cup competitions. The front man played in all of China PR’s second-round matches in the current qualifying competition, scoring eight goals in seven games to help them make the final round, where he hopes to maintain his excellent form and help his side secure qualification.

Abdul Aziz Al Maqbali OMA

Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali - Oman

Forward, 32 With Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic having overhauled the Omani squad, disposing of an old guard led by veterans Ali Al-Habsi and Ahmed Mubarak, the spotlight now falls on striker Abdulaziz Al-Muqbali, the most experienced player in the current line-up. Al-Muqbali made his international debut in 2011 and then took part in the qualifiers for Brazil 2014, in which he scored two goals before repeating the feat in the Russia 2018 qualifiers. The scorer of another two goals in the current qualifying campaign, the experienced Al-Muqbali, who has played club football in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, is the man Ivankovic is now depending on.

Que Ngoc Hai VIE

Quy Ngoc Hai - Vietnam

Defender, 28 Hai is renowned for his physical prowess, an asset that has helped him nail down a place in the Vietnam team since making his international debut in 2014. He wore the captain’s armband at the 2019 Asian Cup, helping Vietnam reach the quarter-finals after a historic penalty shoo-out win over Jordan. He has continued to lead the Golden Star Warriors to success, playing in all their second-round matches and scoring twice as they advanced to the final round of the Asian qualifiers for the first time in their history.