2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™

14 June - 15 July

2018 FIFA World Cup™ 

Tough tests awaits Asia's big boys


Australia, Iran, United Arab Emirates and China PR all enter the latest 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifiers matchday seeking to bounce back having dropped points in the previous fixtures. Iran can return to the top with a win, while both Australia and United Arab Emirates aim to reduce the gap on leaders Jordan and Saudi Arabia respectively. China, for their part, will aim to defeat Bhutan and hope other results also go their way if they are move into the second place.

Elsewhere, Uzbekistan welcome Korea DPR targeting three points as they seek to maintain the pressure on the pace-setters. Japan face an important test against Singapore, while Thailand and Korea Republic are hoping to cement their place at the top with victories. Join *FIFA.com *as we preview all of this week's action.

The match *Singapore-Japan
*With the group campaign past the midway mark, Group E favourites Japan are, unexpectedly, sharing second place with Singapore - a team 102 places below them in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Trailing leaders Syria by two points, the five-time FIFA World Cup participants arrive in Singapore knowing they have little margin for error if they are to guarantee progress into the final 12. Their plight began with a goalless draw in the two sides' first-leg clash when a star-studded Japan were kept at bay throughout at home as the visitors grabbed a precious point - their first in six FIFA World Cup meetings.

Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic has made seven changes from the previous squad that defeated Syria 3-0. Notably, Salzburg forward Akihiro Hayashi earns his first call-up as the Samurai Blue aim to improve their potency upfront. Singapore manager Bernd Stange has, meanwhile, called up young midfielder James van Huizen. Revenge is, of course on the visitors' mind as they desperately seek three points. The home side will, for their part, look to the goalkeeping form of Izwan Mahbud, who frustrated the likes of Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa in the previous meeting.

The other attractions Group A's United Arab Emirates entertain Timor-Leste knowing that they can't afford any slip-up at home if they are to maintain the pressure on leaders Saudi Arabia. Having narrowly won 1-0 in the first leg courtesy of Omar Abdulrahman's late goal, the hosts are aware that they write off their rivals at their peril. In the other match, a goalless draw against Saudi Arabia in Amman on Monday provides Palestine with a timely boost heading into the next fixture against Malaysia in the same neutral venue.

In Group B, hosts Australia aim to bounce back with a victory against Kyrgyzstan having lost to Jordan 2-0 in surprising fashion. Goalkeeper Mat Ryan is in doubt, while striker Mathew Leckie has been ruled out with illness, but with a squad largely featuring overseas-based stars, Ange Postecoglou's Socceroos remain a formidable side for the visiting central Asians. Tajikistan and Bangladesh, meanwhile, square up in Dushanbe with both sides still searching their first victory.

In Group C, China coach Alain Perrin was given just three days to prepare his side ahead of the home game against bottom side Bhutan. Despite the tight timeframe, though, the hosts, trailing leaders Qatar by seven points, are clear they need to not only obtain three points but also score as many goals as possible if they are to keep their fast-diminishing hopes alive. Hong Kong, for their part, will look to maintain second place with victory against hosts Maldives.

In Group D, Iran welcome Turkmenistan aiming to move back into top place alongside leaders Oman. However, Carlos Queiroz's hosts have to make do without top-striker Sardar Azmoun who was on target in the two sides’ 1-1 first-leg draw. The Rostov forward is ruled out after injuring his thigh against Dinamo Moscow recently. The other game pits hosts India against Guam with the former desperately seeking their first point.

*Group F's *runaway leaders Thailand entertain Chinese Taipei knowing that a win at home will leave them on the verge of progression. Three points in Bangkok will see the Thais establish an eight-point gap at the summit ahead of second-placed Iraq, which means they can reach the next round even with a draw against the Iraqis in the group closing game.

The same can be said of Korea Republic, who can consolidate their lead in Group G with victory against Myanmar at home. While three points should be within the hosts' grasp, they shouldn't take anything for granted considering that they were held by the likes of Maldives and Lebanon on the road to Germany 2006. In the other match, Lebanon welcomes Laos aiming to move into second place alongside Kuwait with victory at home.

Elsewhere, Group H front-runners Korea DPR face hosts Uzbekistan in a top-of-the-table clash. An away victory will leave the visitors within touching distance of progression, as they seek to avenge their 4-2 first-leg loss. Philippines, meanwhile, will look to continue their impressive run with a second win against Yemen at home, having stunned the west Asians 2-0 in the opening leg.

*Player to watch *Sardor Rashidov has been hailed as the successor to legendary Maksim Shatskikh after scoring regularly for both club and country. Now 24, he broke onto the domestic stage four two years ago when he finished the season as the top scorer with 15 goals representing Bunyodkor. Rashidov, who moved to Qatari side El Jaish in June, will be the key man for Uzbekistan as they seek revenge against Korea DPR.

*Do you know? *
Qatar and Korea Republic are the only two teams out of 39 participants to have remained perfect throughout Asia's qualifying campaign.

What they said *
"We have two matches ahead and I want my team to end this year with two victories. The Singapore game is an opportunity for our players to get back to their normal selves. I hope that they can live up to expectations."
Japan head coach Vahid Halilhodzic*

Matchday 7 fixtures
12 November *
Group A: Palestine-Malaysia, United Arab Emirates-Timor-Leste
Group B: Tajikistan-Bangladesh, Australia-Kyrgyzstan
Group C: *
Maldives-Hong Kong, China PR-Bhutan
*Group D: *Iran-Turkmenistan, India-Guam
*Group E:
Singapore-Japan, Afghanistan-Cambodia
Group F: Thailand-Chinese Taipei
Group G: Korea Republic-Myanmar, Lebanon-Laos
Group H: **Philippines-Yemen, Uzbekistan-Korea DPR

*The postponed match between Palestine and Saudi Arabia was played in the neutral venue of Amman, Jordan on 9 November. The game ended in a 0-0 draw.

Explore this topic

Recommended Stories