Sunday 02 June 2019, 05:40

Qatar 2022 qualifying begins in Asia

  • The road to Qatar 2022 begins with six ties in Asia

  • Will Malaysia and Safawi Rasid be too much for Timor-Leste?

  • Can Pakistan pocket their first World Cup qualifying win in 30 years?

A little less than a year after the conclusion of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, the quest to reach Qatar 2022 commences, with Asia being the first continent to start its qualifying campaign.

The 12 lowest-ranked Asian sides on the FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking will do battle in six pairings in the first round. The winners of the two-legged contests, which will take place between 6 and 11 June, will advance into September's second round. Join as we preview the opening fixtures.

AFC Round 1 fixtures for Qatar 2022

Ties to be played over two legs between 6 and 11 June

Mongolia-Brunei Darussalam Macau-Sri Lanka Laos-Bangladesh Malaysia-Timor-Leste Cambodia-Pakistan Bhutan-Guam

Guam's Ryan Guy pulls ahead of India's Dhanapal Ganesh (courtesy: Guam Football Association)

Malaysia - the strongest of the 12?

The highest-ranked of the dozen teams, Malaysia will be heavy favourites heading into their tie against Timor-Leste. The 168th-placed side will hope to draw on past experience, having seen off the same opposition twice on the road to Russia 2018. The Malayan Tigers will also be boosted by their strong performance at the 2018 AFF Championship, where they finished runners-up to Vietnam.

Coach Tan Cheng Hoe has called up a number of promising stars, with last season’s Malaysian Super League MVP Safawi Rasid the most notable inclusion. Timor-Leste, under the guidance of Japanese coach Norio Tsukitate, have a youthful squad who will have been boosted by the experience of competing in last year’s Asian Games and AFF Championship.

What’s happening elsewhere?

Having overpowered Macau 4-1 on aggregate in the same stage of qualifying for Russia 2018, Cambodia entertain Pakistan aiming to emulate the feat this time around. Pakistan are yet to win any of their 30 World Cup qualifying matches – a run stretching back to January 1989.

With memories of their historic qualification victory over Sri Lanka four years ago still fresh in the mind, Bhutan welcome Guam seeking to spring another surprise. But they’ll have to remain aware of the Matao’s potential – the Micronesians stunned Turkmenistan and India in the second qualifying round for the last World Cup.

Boosted by their U-23 side's shock 1-0 win over Qatar in the 2018 Asian Games, Bangladesh travel to Laos hoping to get their first World Cup qualifying win since 2011. A 1-0 friendly defeat of Cambodia will add to their confidence, but the south-east Asians can take heart from a 2-1 warm-up win over Sri Lanka.

Mongolia and Brunei Darussalam have similar records in qualifying, with both sides grabbing just one victory in 14 matches to date. The pair have been drawn to face each other, so one is guaranteed to make history and progress to the next stage for the first time.

Sri Lanka travel to Macau, who are looking for their first World Cup qualifying victory since the France 1998 campaign.

Did you know?

Two teams will play their 'home' matches on foreign soil. Both legs of Malaysia-Timor-Leste will take place in Kuala Lumpur, while Pakistan host Cambodia in Doha, Qatar.