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Regional derbies take top billing

  • Asian Qatar 2022 qualifying reaches fourth matchday
  • Big names battle in top-of-the-table clashes
  • Derbies in various parts of the continent

Top-of-the-table match-ups and regional derbies headline the action on Tuesday’s matchday 4 of Asia’s Round 2 qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™, with leaders Japan, Qatar, Korea Republic and United Arab Emirates all pitted against their nearest rivals.

Meanwhile, the likes of Australia, IR Iran and China PR enter their third outings aiming to maintain a hitherto unblemished record. Elsewhere, India entertain Bangladesh and Indonesia welcome Vietnam in what promise to be enticing regional derbies. Join as we preview these match-ups across Asia.

Matchday 4 fixtures
(15 October)
Group A: Philippines-China PR, Syria-Guam
Group B: Chinese Taipei-Australia, Jordan-Nepal
Group C: Bahrain-IR Iran, Cambodia-Iraq
Group D: Palestine-Saudi Arabia, Singapore-Uzbekistan
Group E: India-Bangladesh, Qatar-Oman
Group F: Tajikistan-Japan, Mongolia-Kyrgyz Republic
Group G: Thailand-United Arab Emirates, Indonesia-Vietnam
Group H: Korea DPR-Korea Republic, Sri Lanka-Lebanon

The match
Korea DPR-Korea Republic
Sharing top spot in Group H with six points each, these two teams enter the showdown in Pyongyang knowing that the victor will move clear at the summit of the table. With only the group winners advancing to the next stage, it is a match which neither side can afford to lose.

In a sense, Paulo Bento’s visitors boast a slight mental edge, having remained undefeated in the pair’s past six World Cup qualifying meetings with three wins and three draws. Yun Jongsu’s hosts can, however, look to their trademark resilient play which has seen them frustrate opponents time and again.

Even the match itself is special – it marks the first time that Korea DPR has hosted Korea Republic on home soil in nearly three decades. Ten years back, the Chollima twice held their southern neighbours in neutral Shanghai in their ‘home games’ en route to successful qualification for South Africa 2010. Sri Lanka host Lebanon in the other group match.

The other attractions
In Group A, Marcello Lippi’s China travel to Philippines seeking their third straight win. Team Dragon will look to the goalscoring form of Espanyol forward Wu Lei who scored a brace in their 3-0 drubbing of the Azkals in January’s 2019 AFC Asian Cup. In the other match, Syria entertain Guam knowing that there is no room for slip-ups if they are to keep pressure on the Chinese before the two sides’ crunch tie in Dubai next month.

Group B front-runners Australia travel to Chinese Taipei aiming to strengthen their grip on the section with a third consecutive victory. Furthermore, this match provides another opportunity for coach Graham Arnold to test new young players and formations. Second-place Jordan, meanwhile, entertain Nepal in the section’s other game seeking to bounce back, having being held to a disappointing goalless draw by Kuwait.

In Group C, Marc Wilmots’ free-scoring Iran will likely have their first real test against hosts Bahrain who famously inflicted a 3-1 defeat on Team Melli on the road to Korea/Japan 2002. Any slip-ups by Iran will benefit Iraq, who can move to the top of the table with a win in Cambodia.

Group D’s Palestine will be hoping to reproduce the form which saw them stun Uzbekistan 2-0 in the opener when they entertain Saudi Arabia. In fact, the hosts did catch the Green Falcons by surprise by holding them to a goalless draw at home four years ago during Russia 2018 qualifying. In the other match, Uzbekistan face a must-win against hosts Singapore if they are to keep their campaign on track.

Group E leaders Qatar welcome Oman seeking to prolong their undefeated head-to-head record, having managed two wins and two draws in the past four World Cup qualifying meetings. In the other match, India host pointless Bangladesh in Kolkata’s mighty Salt Lake stadium with each side desperately seeking to rekindle hopes with a first win.

In Group F, joint leaders Tajikistan and Japan do battle with both seeking to move clear with victory. The visiting Samurai Blue smashed 12 unanswered goals past Tajikistan over two legs on the road to Brazil 2014. Mongolia, meanwhile, will look to their ever-growing home support in this campaign as they aim to spring another surprise against visiting Kyrgyz Republic.

Group G pace-setters United Arab Emirates know they will face a tough test in Thailand after the pair played out a tense 1-1 draw in their last meeting during the Asian Cup. In the other match, pointless Indonesia entertain Vietnam desperately needing a win to keep their hopes alive.

Did you know?
India’s meeting with neighbours Bangladesh is the pair’s third FIFA World Cup qualifier and 29th match in all competitions since 1978. The Indians have emerged the dominant side so far with 15 wins and just two defeats.

EltasZone Sportswriters, Sports Analysts, Opinion columnists, editorials and op-eds. Analysis from The Zone Team
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