Tuesday 12 November 2019, 22:49

Crunch ties loom large as Asian qualifying reaches midway mark

  • Familiar foes reunited in Matchday 5

  • Iraq and IR Iran resume rivalry in pivotal battle

  • China PR face must-win contest against Syria

Pivotal clashes and familiar foes characterise Matchday 5 of Asia's second round of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ on Thursday as the campaign reaches the midway mark.

Traditional rivals like Iraq and IR Iran, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan will all cross paths in crucial matches, while Jordan entertain Australia to resume their fast-developing rivalry. Elsewhere, China PR and Syria do battle in Group A's top-of-the-table meeting, a contest which neither side can afford to lose. Join FIFA.com as we preview the heavyweight battles across Asia.

Matchday 5 fixtures (14 November) Group A: Maldives-Philippines, Syria-China PR Group B: Kuwait-Chinese Taipei, Jordan-Australia Group C: Hong Kong-Bahrain, Iraq-IR Iran Group D: Yemen-Palestine, Uzbekistan-Saudi Arabia Group E: Afghanistan-India, Oman-Bangladesh Group F: Myanmar-Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic-Japan Group G: Malaysia-Thailand, Vietnam-United Arab Emirates Group H: Turkmenistan-Korea DPR, Lebanon-Korea Republic

The match Iraq-IR Iran Group C leaders Iraq entertain IR Iran in neutral Amman as the two sides resume what is one of Asia's most well-known rivalries, one which dates back all the way to 1962. Marc Wilmots' visitors can, of course, take heart from their superior head-to-head record in all competitions, including winning two and losing one of their past three World Cup qualifying meetings. Srecko Katanec's side, however, have proven more than competitive over their rivals in recent meetings, including at this year’s AFC Asian Cup.

Having suffered a 1-0 loss at the hands of Bahrain in the previous outing, Team Melli are under pressure to bounce back with an away win. Wilmots has named a full-strength squad featuring ten overseas-based players. Katanec, though, has called up a trio of uncapped players to provide fresh impetus to Iraq as they aim to cement their place at the top with all three points. Should the battle end in a stalemate, Bahrain, level with Iraq on points, have the opportunity to move top with victory in Hong Kong.

The other attractions Group A front-runners Syria entertain China in neutral Dubai hoping to strengthen their grip on the section with a fourth-straight win. While the Syrians will look to their in-form striker Omar Al Somah, who is topping the tournament goalscoring chart with seven goals, their hopes receive added boost with the return of defender Ahmad Al Salih and striker Omar Kharbin. Marcello Lippi's visitors, for their part, are all too aware that they face a must-win scenario if they are to keep their campaign on track. Philippines travel to Maldives seeking to keep their hopes alive with three points against the bottom side in the section’s other match.

In Group B, Graham Arnold's Australia travel to Jordan aiming to prolong their unblemished record in this campaign. However, the Socceroos' form will come under scrutiny from the hosts, who have won two of the pair’s past four World Cup qualifying meetings. The Jordanians' hopes are boosted by the return of veteran goalkeeper Amer Shafi, who excelled between the posts as they won 1-0 in a 2019 Asian Cup group encounter. In the other match, bottom side Chinese Taipei, still seeking their first point, welcome Kuwait.

Group D leaders Uzbekistan entertain Saudi Arabia hoping to continue their newly-rediscovered winning form under returning boss Vadim Abramov. Having garnered three goals in as many games, Rostov forward Eldor Shomurodov will shoulder goalscoring tasks for the hosts, who enter the match on the back of a 3-1 warm-up victory against Kyrgyz Republic. Palestine, meanwhile, can move into second place should they win against Yemen in the other match regardless of the result between the top two.

With Group E pace-setters Qatar not in action, second-placed Oman have high hopes of reducing the gap with a victory against Bangladesh at home. However, Erwin Koeman's side should be wary of their visitors, who battled to a resilient draw against India in the last outing. Meanwhile, India face Afghanistan desperately aiming to rekindle their hopes with a first win.

In Group F, leaders Japan visit Kyrgyz Republic aiming to extend their cushion at the top with a fourth win against the second-placed side. While a comfortable victory looks within the grasp for Hajime Moriyasu's star-studded visitors, they can't underestimate the home side, who famously stunned Jordan 1-0 in the same stage of qualifying for Russia 2018. A loss by the hosts, though, will benefit Tajikistan, who can leapfrog them into second with victory in Myanmar.

Boosted by their 2-1 win against United Arab Emirates, Group G leaders Thailand take on hosts Malaysia aiming to build further momentum. Despite suffering two consecutive losses against UAE and Vietnam respectively, however, the home side enter the game boasted by a 1-0 friendly win over Tajikistan with midfielder Safawi Rasid striking the only goal. The other match sees Vietnam, level with Thailand on points, entertain UAE keen on maintaining their place among the top two with three points.

In Group H, joint leaders Korea Republic and Korea DPR have their sights fixed on nothing but away victories against Lebanon and Turkmenistan respectively. The former will look to their formidable attacking duo of captain Son Heungmin and Kim Shinwook, who collectively scored six goals in the 8-0 demolition of Sri Lanka last month, while the latter will likely stick to their counter-attacking strategy to overcome the Central Asian hosts.

Did you know? The likes of Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen will play their respective home games in neutral venues.