Jordan, China PR and Singapore enter their return games with Kyrgyzstan, Hong Kong and Syria with nothing but revenge on their minds having dropped points in their opening meetings. The former two have fixed their sights on nothing fewer than three points despite being held to goalless draws by the same opponents previously while the latter quartet aim to avenge their last defeat with a home victory.
Also catching the attention are the top-and-bottom clashes with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Japan and Korea Republic all expecting to consolidate their lead with comfortable wins against the likes of Timor-Leste, Bhutan, Cambodia and Laos. Join *FIFA.com *as we preview these enticing match-ups across the continent.
*Hong Kong-China PR
*Perhaps even the most pessimistic Chinese fans may not have been able to predict the tricky scenarios facing the Team Dragon with the campaign reaching the second phase. Alain Perrin's charges began as the group's top seeds but are currently languishing in third place, trailing Qatar and Hong Kong by five and three points respectively. With the chances of finishing as group winners slim, the side whose last FIFA World Cup™ appearance was in 2002 are aware that they are left with no options but to win all three remaining matches if they are to maintain the hopes of progressing as one of the four best runners-up.
Indeed, China's misfortunes began with an unexpected goalless stalemate at home against Hong Kong, before a single goal away loss to Qatar put their campaign in real jeopardy. To overcome the resilient opponents in the return, coach Perrin has called back in-form Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Huang Bowen and Zhang Xizhe as he aims to enhance their potency upfront. Hosts Hong Kong can, for their part, look to attacking duo Alex Akande and Paulinho Piracicaba, the latter of whom grabbed the match-winner against Maldives in the last outing. In the other match, Qatar face hosts Bhutan expecting to emulate their record 15-0 triumph in the first-leg encounter.
The other attractions
*With the 7-0 victory against the same opponents still fresh in their mind, Saudi Arabia travel to Timor-Leste hoping to strengthen their grip on *Group A with an away win. While three points should be within the Saudis' grasp, the visitors will likely not let the chance to score as many goals as possible slip away. Malaysia, meanwhile, entertain United Arab Emirates with a score to settle, as the disastrous 10-0 loss in the previous meeting cost coach Dollah Salleh his job. Despite playing at home, the hosts can't count on the support of their twelfth man as the match will be staged in an empty Shah Alam Stadium as a result of the crowd disturbances in the previous home game which led to the abandonment of the match against Saudi Arabia.
In Group B, front-runners Jordan head to Kyrgyzstan aiming to avenge the previous draw with a convincing victory. A 2-0 friendly win against Malta may see the visitors enter the re-match with winning form but they can't take the hosts' resilience lightly. Despite missing the services of Tomi Juric and Tom Rogic, both of whom picked up injuries in the 3-0 victory against Tajikistan, Australia travel to Bangladesh confident of obtaining the back-to-back wins.
Group D's joint leaders Oman and Iran face away tests in Turkmenistan and Guam respectively. Despite losing the reverse fixture 3-1 to the Omanis, the Central Asians target three points in the return as they seek to maintain their undefeated home record. The same can be said of Guam, who have grabbed two wins and a draw at home, results which have raised quite a few eyebrows across Asia.
Singapore from Group E must put their 3-0 home loss to Japan behind them as they entertain Syria. Despite losing the first leg in neutral Oman 1-0, Bernd Stange's side carved out several opportunities, most notably with striker Khairul Amri hitting the crossbar. Besides, they can take heart from a 2-1 victory against the same opponents at home two years ago as they aim to leapfrog the Syrians to the second place with three points. Leaders Japan are, meanwhile, expecting to cement their place at the summit with a comfortable win in Cambodia.
Trailing leaders Thailand by eight points, Group F's Iraq face a must-win tie in Chinese Taipei. Having been held to surprising stalemates by firstly Thailand and then Vietnam, the 2007 AFC Asian Cup winners are aware that they will write off the rivals at their own peril. In Group G, Korea Republic are expected to continue their smooth run against hosts Laos while Kuwait can draw inspiration from their previous 9-0 victory against Myanmar heading into the return fixture. Elsewhere, in Group H, Korea DPR welcome Bahrain hoping to extend their lead with three points at home while Uzbekistan are expecting to prolong their winning form against hosts Yemen.
*Player to watch
*Despite being stunned 4-2 by Korea DPR in the opener, Uzbekistan bounced back with a hard-fought 1-0 victory against Yemen at home, a result which saw the Central Asians put their campaign back on track. The scorer of the match-winning goal was none other than Alexander Geynrikh, Uzbekistan's third top-scorer of all time with 30 goals from 85 international appearances. Not fit to play the entire 90 minutes, the 31-year-old former CSKA Moscow has nevertheless lost none of his predatory talents, scoring two crucial goals as a super-sub.
*Do you know?
*As this campaign also serves as the qualifier for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, no teams have been eliminated yet according to the tournament format with even pointless Bhutan, Cambodia and Chinese Taipei harbouring hopes of earning at least a place in the play-off round of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification.
What they said
*"We know the second phase of qualifying is going to be really challenging. This first phase was about continued development as a team and creating depth, which we're continuing to do. Hopefully we see continued growth in the team so that when the second phase comes around we're ready to tackle it," *Australia coach Ange Postecoglou
Matchday 8 fixtures:
*Group A: Malaysia-United Arab Emirates, Timor-Leste-Saudi Arabia
Group B: Bangladesh-Australia, Kyrgyzstan-Jordan
Group C: Hong Kong-China PR, Bhutan-Qatar
Group D: Turkmenistan-Oman, Guam-Iran
Group E: Singapore-Syria, Cambodia-Japan
Group F: Chinese Taipei-Iraq
Group G: Myanmar-Kuwait, Laos-Korea Republic
Group H: Yemen-Uzbekistan, Korea DPR-Bahrain