2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

14 June - 15 July

Asian giants in differing form


A series of friendlies were played across Asia during the past few days, with the final ten contenders aiming to sharpen their form ahead of Tuesday's Matchday 4 of the continent's final qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.

While the warm-ups served as a final opportunity for the coaches to take stock of their respective sides, the mixed results may see them in differing moods heading into the upcoming showdowns.

Morale-booster for Socceroos
A 3-0 defeat of Lebanon is all that Australia need as the Socceroos travel to Jordan seeking their first win. Having only managed two draws to languish third in Group B, the friendly victory provides Holger Osieck's outfit with the inspiration and confidence to put their campaign back on track.

Three weeks after their disappointing 3-1 friendly loss to Scotland, Osieck tested a new central midfield partnership featuring Matt McKay and Mark Bresciano.

His tactical switch paid off immediately, with Bresciano having a hand in Tim Cahill's opener on 20 minutes, before instigating a move which led to McKay grabbing the second three minutes later. 33-year-old Melbourne Victory forward Archie Thompson then added the icing to the cake with a late strike.

"Matty [McKay] and Bresciano worked pretty well," said Osieck, who was quick to pay tribute to the newly-formed creative partners. "They complimented each other quite well. They had a lot of good tactical awareness."

Inspired by the players' performance, the German manager claimed the triumph can stand his side in good stead against the section’s bottom team. "It's good for us to rehearse here," he continued. "Because the conditions are similar. Lebanon play a similar style so I think that helps to get an idea of what we have to expect in Jordan."

Also wrapping up preparations in winning fashion were Japan, who edged United Arab Emirates 1-0 with Vitesse Arnhem striker Mike Havenaar heading home the match-winner on 69 minutes.

Despite fielding the likes of Manchester United’s new acquisition Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda, the Blue Samurai looked far from the side that crushed Jordan 6-0 and defeated Oman 3-0 in their previous qualifying fixtures, with their performance causing coach Alberto Zaccheroni concern ahead of next week's meeting with second-placed Iraq in Saitama.

"We had both negative and positive elements today," remarked the Italian. "The result was important but equally important was to measure where we are before the Iraq game. It was important to check the condition of the team and players."

Lacklustre form for Iran
Trailing behind leaders Korea Republic by two points in Group A, Iran are expecting to cement their place in the section’s top two with a win in Lebanon. However, a goalless draw against Jordan showed that they must enhance their cutting edge if they are to clinch maximum points in Beirut.

Long-time absentee Masoud Shojaei was given a surprise start in the friendly and the Osasuna midfielder set up Mohammad-Reza Khalatbari before the break, only to see the Sepahan striker hit the post.

Karim Ansarifard also came close to opening the scoring and Team Melli were nearly punished for their profligacy in front of goal as Jordan wasted a gilt-edged headed chance to seal the match in the closing stages.

Even more disappointing were Qatar, who were stunned 2-1 by Tajikistan, who are 40 places below them in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. The unexpected loss has left coach Paulo Autuori with much food for thought as his side take on Uzbekistan in Doha in their next game, on 16 October.

The central Asians, under newly-appointed Mirjalol Qosimov, rounded off their build-up with a 3-0 defeat of Kuwait in Tashkent on Friday. The resounding win provided the former Soviet republic with a much-needed morale-booster as they entertain Korea Republic on Tuesday aiming to keep their hopes alive with a first win.  

Elsewhere, a host of teams who bowed out during the previous stages impressed against their strongly-favoured opponents in friendlies despite their qualifying failure.

Notably, Philippines recorded a spirited 2-0 defeat of Singapore to mark their first victory against the Lions in four decades, while China PR nearly caught Sweden out only to lose 1-0, with Johan Elmander scoring the only goal. Saudi Arabia, though, had a game to forget in Spain, conceding five unanswered goals.

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