Asian hopefuls eye Olympic debut

United Arab Emirates enter Wednesday’s final round of Asian qualifying for the Men's Olympic Football Tournament London 2012 with history firmly within their grasp. A single point against Uzbekistan in Tashkent will be enough to send the West Asians through for the first time but the hosts, despite trailing by three points, are also hunting a maiden appearance at the global showpiece knowing victory can ensure their progress.

The qualifying task appears far harder for Bahrain, whose hopes of a first-ever Olympic qualification lie with a large winning-margin against strongly-favoured hosts Japan. Also seeking to make history are Oman, who can clinch their section's runners-up place with victory over Saudi Arabia to join the second-placed finishers from the other two groups in a three-way play-off battle in Hanoi later this month. The winner will then go on to meet Senegal in April for a possible fourth berth for Asia. Join as we preview the final Matchday.

The match
Uzbekistan-United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates enter the re-march with a slight mental edge despite being held to a goalless draw at home in their previous meeting. Leading the Uzbeks hosts by three points, the visitors need just a draw to make it through. To prepare them for the match, and also for the potentially daunting Tashkent weather, Mahdi Ali Hassan Redha's side has spent ten days in Turkey hoping local conditions will provide suitable acclimatisation ahead of the expected icy conditions in the Uzbek capital.

Vadim Abramov’s host side, however, can look to their unblemished home record which has seen them prevail 2-0 over both Iraq and Australia. Facing a must-win scenario, the central Asians will look to striking-ace Kenja Turaev, who scored in both home wins. While the Uzbeks are expected to press hard, they must remain wary of the opponent's attacking-line spearheaded by wunderkind Ahmed Khalil. The former AFC Young Player of the Year scored twice as his side outlasted the Uzbeks 2-0 in the 2008 AFC U-19 Championship. The section's other game pits eliminated Australia and Iraq, both of whom are left with little to play for but pride.

The other attractions
With Korea Republic already-qualified from Group A, Oman and Qatar are left battling for the section's runners-up position, which provides passage to the play-offs. Leading the Qataris by a point, the Omanis can clinch second place with a victory against the already-out Saudi Arabia regardless of the other result. Overseeing the team for the all-important contest will be Paul Le Guen, who has recently taken the reins from Hamad al Azzani, with the Frenchman having guided Oman's senior side through to Asia's final qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

Japan entertain Bahrain as the undisputed favourites in Group C, with a point enough to take them through. Aware of the visitors' attacking strategy, Japan coach Takashi Sekizuka has asked his players to display their trade mark passing game. In the section's other game, second-placed Syria welcome Malaysia knowing they need not only a big win over the bottom side, but they must also rely on Japan falling to defeat if they are to seal the group’s top place.

Player to watch
Having established himself with the senior national side, Khalil's experience could provide his side with a crucial edge in attack. The 20-year-old set up the winning-goal as they downed Uzbekistan 1-0 in qualifying for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, before netting a brace to propel his side to a 3-0 defeat of the former Soviet republic in the 2010 Asian Games.

The stat
- The qualifying campaign has so far seen a trio of heavyweights out with former Olympic semi-finalists Australia and Iraq condemned to early exits, while Saudi Arabia were also eliminated after losing to Qatar.

What they said
"The defeat of Saudi Arabia provides us with a timely boost and we want to show the world how Qatari football has improved. We have a job to do (against Korea Republic) and we will play well as a group and this is the strengths that can carry us through," Qatar coach Paulo Autuori

Final round - Matchday 6 fixtures:
14 March
Group A: Saudi Arabia-Oman, Korea Republic-Qatar
Group B: Uzbekistan-United Arab Emirates, Australia-Iraq
Group C: Syria-Malaysia, Japan-Bahrain