Trio eye progression as duo aim to bounce back

Bhutanese football player Man Gurung (C-R) vies for the ball

Progression beckons as Asia's first round qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ reaches the decisive second legs on Tuesday. Boosted by their emphatic victories at home in the openers, a trio of sides, namely India, Cambodia and Timor-Leste are confident of completing their jobs of reaching the second round where they will join the remaining 34 higher ranked sides. Sri Lanka and Chinese Taipei, meanwhile, travel to Bhutan and Brunei Darussalam respectively seeking to bounce back following their unexpected defeats. Due to the latest security situation, the second leg between Yemen and Pakistan will not take place in Lahore on Tuesday as previously arranged. Join as we preview the action across Asia.

The match*Brunei Darussalam-Chinese Taipei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Stadium, Bandar Seri Begawan
*Brunei stunned the strongly-favoured Chinese Taipei in the opener with Adi Said heading the only goal. But despite the morale-booster, coach Mike Wong Mun Heng is all too aware of the visitors' determination as well as their firepower. The opponents, after all, dominated the opening leg at home carving out 17 shots without finding the net. Despite the loss, coach Chen Kuei-Jen believes that his side are more than capable of progressing with an emphatic win should the players keep their composure in front of the goal.

Chinese Taipei can, indeed, take heart from their 6-1 aggregate victory over Macau in the same stage on the road to Germany 2006. They drew against Malaysia 4-4 in their previous attempt for Brazil 2014, only to lose on away goals. Their recent progress was displayed in a goalless friendly draw against Korea DPR. The team, dubbed the strongest squad in history by local media, will look to their Chinese Super League duo in captain Chen Po-Liang and striker Ko Yu-Ting. Brunei are, meanwhile, likely to continue their counter-attacking strategy which proved effective in the opening leg. 

The other attractionsSri Lanka enter their return leg seeking redemption against hosts Bhutan after losing in what proved to be the first matchday's biggest surprise. Despite falling to Tshering Dorji's only goal, Nikola Kavazovic's side can travel to the Himalayan kingdom taking heart from their five previous wins including running out 5-2 winners in the 2013 SAFF Championship against the world's lowest ranked side.

Mongolia face an uphill task at home having suffered a heavy defeat in the opening leg. But the Mongolians can draw inspiration from their 1-0 home defeat of Myanmar in the same qualifying round for Brazil 2014, although they were narrowly edged out 2-1 on aggregate. 

Despite defeating Macau 3-0 in the first leg at home, Cambodia will remain wary of their notorious away form if they are to safely run their lead into victory. During their previous attempt for Brazil 2014, they opened with a 4-2 home victory against Laos but fell to a 6-2 away defeat to lose out in dramatic fashion.

Nepal will count on their home form to reverse the 2-0 defeat in India, having downed the same opponents 2-1 on home soil in the 2013 SAFF Championship. But the respective performances in the first leg may suggest differently this time around, with the Indians dominating throughout despite fielding as many as four new faces. Shouldering the goal-scoring task is, of course, India's all-time top-scorer Sunil Chhetri, whose brace in the 2-0 opening triumph took his international tally to 45.

Player to watchChan Vathanaka proved Cambodia's hero in the first leg as the 21-year-old came off the bench in the second half and scored twice to set his side on the road to a 3-0 victory. An emerging star in his country, Vathanaka won the local league's Most Valuable Player award last season as his Boeung Ket Angkor finished runners-up in the 12-strong competition.

Do you know?Along with debutants Bhutan, five other teams in Mongolia, Macau, Brunei, Timor-Leste and Cambodia have never previously progressed beyond the first round.

What they said"We did our best in the first game but most important is what we shall do in the second meeting. We must focus on our play, keep the momentum and spirit which we showed in the away win," Brunei forward Shahrazen Said

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia AFC Preliminary Competition*17 March (second leg):




Brunei Darussalam-Chinese Taipei

Bhutan-Sri Lanka

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