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Saudi Arabia and Japan intersect, UAE under pressure: 5 things to watch as Arab countries resume Asian World Cup qualifiers
The final round of World Cup qualifying resumes on Thursday and it can be said that apart from Saudi Arabia and possibly Oman, it could have been better for the Arab teams so far.
With only the top two of the two groups of six teams receiving automatic berths in Qatar, there isn’t much room for slippage. As Day 3 of 10 games is about to begin, here are five things to watch out for in Thursday’s games.
1. Saudi Arabia should learn from Oman against Japan
You can’t do better than winning two out of two times, and Saudi Arabia is doing very well after finally deserved victories against Vietnam and Oman. Now, however, comes Japan, the team that has been the best in Asia in recent years.
Salem Al-Dawsari may be out due to injury, but that’s no reason for the Green Falcons to sit down and hope for the best, even against a squad full of European talent. Japan are under pressure after losing the opener to Oman and cannot afford to lose in Jeddah.
This Oman triumph gave HervÃ© Renard his plan: to give Japan as little time and space as possible and to counter-attack quickly and with conviction.
Japanese coach Hajime Moriyasu is under pressure after an uncertain start, and it remains to be seen whether he will stick to his criticized cautious style or lift the handbrake. Either way, Saudi Arabia’s recent intensity and increasing fluidity under Renard should cause problems for East Asians.
2. Pressure on the UAE
It wasn’t supposed to be like that for white people. After Bert van Marwijk returned for his second term, the squad grew more and more impressive in the second qualifying round, and hopes were high that a return to the world stage for the first time since their debut in 1990 would be a real possibility. It still is, but the results need to improve.
Two games against Lebanon and Iraq, two of the weakest members of the squad, yielded just two points. This means Thursday’s home game against Iran, the top-ranked team in Asia at 22 and the only one in Group A with the most points from the first two games, is almost a must-see and certainly a must-see. .
If the UAE were to collapse, it would already be seven points behind Iran and the top spot would be a long way off. If South Korea beats Syria, then even second place will be five points away. There have been some good times with the UAE so far, but against Iran the team need to produce a solid performance for 90 minutes.
3. Syria should take the game in South Korea
Syria has so far gone unnoticed, although the performance has been decent with a narrow loss in Tehran and a 1-1 draw with the United Arab Emirates. Then comes another trip to Ansan in South Korea. The Koreans aren’t eager to face a team they don’t like to play against. Last time, Syria played defensively in two games against the Taeguk Warriors, and it was appalling and frustrating business.
Korea have four points from the first two home games but have not impressed, and there is growing criticism of coach Paulo Bento and his apparent inability to make the most of it. ‘a group of talented players. Players like Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan impress in the English Premier League, but the European-based players only arrived in Seoul 48 hours before kick-off after a long journey through seven or eight time zones. They are unlikely to be at their best. With people like Omar Kharbin and Omar Al-Somah ready to join the attack, there is no reason Syria cannot get something from Korea – if they are ambitious.
4. Iraq against Lebanon is of enormous importance
If only the first two places in the group offer automatic qualification, there is also another way. Finish third and there is a barrage against the team in the same position in the other group. Win that and then there’s an intercontinental playoff, usually against a Concacaf nation, with a World Cup spot on the line.
Iraq has always had little chance of finishing in the top two despite choosing a renowned foreign coach with Dick Advocaat. The Mesopotamian Lions have always been very talented but have long lacked consistency to return to the World Cup for the first time since 1986. The third is possible and should be the target.
A point from the first two games doesn’t look great, but it came against the top two teams: South Korea in Seoul, who won a goalless draw and then a 3-0 loss to Iran, which was not a true reflection of the competitiveness of the game.
Now, however, Iraq must win against the lowest ranked team in the group in Lebanon. There are suggestions that some players are not happy with the strict Advocaat diet, but now is the time to start earning points. As the UAE takes on Iran, an Iraq victory could well put them in third place.
For Lebanon, there was also a point and the Cedars’ goal is to be competitive in every game and then see what happens.
5. Oman can make lightning twice
On paper, defeating Japan in Japan is a much more difficult task than facing Australia in Qatar, so there’s no reason Oman can’t give the Socceroos a real game. Coach Branko Ivankovic will be delighted not to have to take his squad all the way, a place where Australia have a fantastic record in qualifying for the World Cup.
Australia are generally in great shape, having won their last 10 games, and are full of confidence. But the same can be said of Oman, the only Arab team outside of Saudi Arabia to have tasted victory so far in this series of matches. Against Japan, it was the best team: courageous and proactive. The story is however against the men of Muscat, with only one victory out of nine against Australia. The last two games have resulted in a combined score of 9-0.
Oman is hoping this means Australia, as Japan probably did, are a little complacent but whatever happens the Reds are not there to make numbers but to challenge.