Monday 18 November 2019, 04:53

Chasers seek to reduce gap as big names rest

  • AFC Qatar 2022 Round 2 qualifying enters its backend with matchday 6

  • Syria seeking a fifth straight win against Philippines

  • Southeast quartet battles in Group G

Asia’s second round of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ picks up pace with the campaign just past the halfway mark. Notably, Syria can extend their lead in Group A to eight points and further close upon early progression should they win against Philippines, while the likes of Iraq, Qatar and Vietnam all enter Tuesday’s matchday 6 aiming to strengthen their grip on their respective groups with victories.

With leaders Australia, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Korea Republic receiving a bye, their nearest chasers are provided the chance to reduce the gap. Join as we preview these showdowns across Asia.

Matchday 6 fixtures (19 November) Group A: Maldives-Guam, Syria-Philippines Group B: Nepal-Kuwait, Jordan-Chinese Taipei Group C: Hong Kong-Cambodia, Iraq-Bahrain Group D: Yemen-Singapore, Uzbekistan-Palestine Group E: Afghanistan-Qatar, Oman-India Group F: Myanmar-Mongolia, Kyrgyz Republic-Tajikistan Group G: Malaysia-Indonesia, Vietnam-Thailand Group H: Turkmenistan-Sri Lanka, Lebanon-Korea DPR

The match Iraq-Bahrain Group C has so far proved one of the hardest, with even Asia's top-ranked IR Iran languishing in third place after five matchdays. And with Team Melli receiving a bye, most eyes will be on leaders Iraq who entertain second-placed Bahrain in Amman. Of course, the two sides are no strangers to each other on the qualifying scene, having crossed paths on four occasions, including playing out a stalemate in their first meeting. The previous encounter saw Srecko Katanec's Iraq come from behind to earn a 1-1 draw but boosted by their recent 2-1 defeat of Iran, they enter the return match keen on consolidating their place at the top with three points.

Helio Sousa's visitors, for their part, travel to Amman desperately seeking to bounce back after being held to a goalless draw in Hong Kong. They will look to the goalscoring form of ace-striker Komail Alaswad who was on target against Iraq in the first leg as they aim to move top with a victory. The Iraqis can, however, count on their on-song striker Mohanad Ali who racked up four goals in this campaign including opening the scoring against Iran. In the other match, Hong Kong welcome Cambodia with both sides still seeking their first win.

Qatar 2022 qualifiers draw (AFC Round 2) 

The other attractions Group A's runaway leaders Syria entertain Philippines in Dubai aiming to edge closer to early progression with a victory. Of course, Fajr Ibrahim's hosts will look to top-striker Omar Al Somah who scored a brace in their 5-2 comeback victory against the Azkals in the first leg meeting. The visitors, meanwhile, can take heart from their 2-1 win in Maldives and will hope to reduce the gap on the Syrians by springing a surprise. Bottom-placed Guam take on hosts Maldives in the other match still searching for their first points.

With front-runners Australia not in action, Group B's second-placed Kuwait and Jordan are provided with an opportunity to close the gap on the Socceroos with victories. The former travel to Nepal aiming to reproduce the form which saw them win 7-0 in the first leg, while the latter eye a comfortable victory against Chinese Taipei at home despite winning narrowly in their previous meeting.

Having suffered an unexpected 2-0 away loss in Palestine in the opener, Group D's second-placed Uzbekistan entertain the west Asians with a score to settle. A victory at home is all that Vadim Abramov's hosts are wanting as they seek to bounce back from the 3-2 loss to Saudi Arabia in the latest outing. And with the Green Falcons not playing, the Uzbeks are aware that they can move top with three points. While the hosts can count on the in-form FC Rostov striker Eldor Shomurodov, they will be mindful of defensive duties having conceded two late goals against the Saudis. Trailing Uzbekistan by a point, Yemen welcome Singapore in Bahrain knowing that they can move second if they win and the other result goes their way.

Group E pace-setters Qatar take on hosts Afghanistan in neutral Dushanbe hoping to consolidate their place at the top. Meanwhile, second-place Oman, trailing by just a point, entertain India with their sights fixed on no less than three points to maintain the pressure on the Qataris. They will be wary of India's veteran striker Sunil Chhetri who opened the scoring in the two sides' last meeting.

In Group F, second-placed Kyrgyz Republic welcome Tajikistan in what is an all Central Asian affair. While both sides are expecting a win to reduce the gap on leaders Japan, it is the visiting Tajikistan who can take heart from their superior head-to-head record, having won three of their past five World Cup qualifying meetings including a 1-0 victory a few months back. Myanmar, meanwhile, entertain Mongolia in the other match hoping to avenge the solitary-goal defeat in the first leg.

Regional derbies come to the fore in Group G with four southeast Asian sides doing battle. Notably, leaders Vietnam host Thailand still seeking their first victory against their neighbours on the qualifying scene, having lost two and drawn one of the past three meetings. A victory will cement their place at the summit but should they lose, the visiting Thais can move to the top level with them on points. In the other match, Malaysia takes on bottom-side Indonesia at home hoping to keep their campaign on track with victory.

With Group H leaders Korea Republic not in action, the focal point is on the clash between second-placed Lebanon and Korea DPR who are level on seven points. Trailing by just a point, either side can leapfrog Korea Republic to the top of the section with a victory but if the game end in stalemate, Turkmenistan, a point further away, can move to the summit should they win against pointless Sri Lanka at home.

Did you know? Topping the tournament scoring-chart is Syria's in-form striker Omar Al Somah, who has racked up seven goals from four matches, a goal clear of Ali Mabkhout. And with the UAE striker not in action, the Syria captain has the chance of further distancing himself from the nearest challenger.