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Monday, September 5, 2011

Exam 2 for Asian hopefuls

The 3rd round of Asian Zone qualifying FIFA World Cup Brazil™ got off to an interesting begin, with a number of underdogs giving more illustrious opponents dangerous examinations. Australia, China PR and Japan did bring off to eke out triumphs, however, and will be hoping to march on to 6 points on Matchday 2. FIFA.com previews a set of fixtures which include the Socceroos’ visit to Saudi Arabia and the Samurai Blue’s stop in Uzbekistan.

The game
Saudi Arabia-Australia

The Dammam duel will be the sides’ 4th meeting in history but 1st since the FIFA Confederations Cup in 1997, when the Saudis won 1-0 on home soil. Desperate for his 1st triumph at the reins of ‘The Sons of the Desert’, Rijkaard desires nothing less than 3 points. However, having drawn 0-0 with Oman first time out, the Dutchman is likely to switch his 4-3-3 formation back to a 4-2-2, with captain Yasser Al Qahtani spearheading the attack alongside Mohammed Al Shalhoub.

Despite their less-than-convincing start - a comeback 2-1 win over Thailand – the Socceroos still appear the team to beat in the group, given their runners-up finish in January's AFC Asian Cup. And with 3 points already on the board, Australia will have less pressure on them than Saudi Arabia.

The other attractions
The absence of Japan's talisman Keisuke Honda took its cost as the Asian champions struggled to see the net against Korea DPR, with the triumph only sealed deep into stoppage time courtesy of defender Maya Yoshida. With the CSKA Moscow midfielder still missing the Uzbekistan match due an hurt right knee, coach Alberto Zaccheroni has urged his players to keep their passing game and stay patient in front of the goal. The Central Asians, meanwhile, welcome the Japanese seeking their 1st win having never lose their upcoming opponents in 7 previous attempts.

Also keen to make history are Jordan, who are out for their 1st win in 9 games with China PR. Advanced by their spirited triumph over Iraq, coach Adnan Hamad openly said his side’s want to attack their visitors. But his words did little to daunt his opposite number, Spaniard Jose Antonio Camacho, with the former Spain and Real Madrid boss firmly confident to win the tactical battle.

In Group E, most eyes are on the derby between two Portuguese-speaking coaches, with Carlos Queiroz's Iran crossing swords with Sebastiao Lazaroni's Qatar. Having suffered a 2-0 upset in Qatar in a important qualifier for France 1998, the former arrive at Doha determined to avenge the previous defeat with another 3 points. The latter, for their part, will count on not only home support but also the vast experiences from their Brazilian gaffer to cause a surprise.

The matchday pits Group B's 2 winning teams together. Captained by their hat-trick hero Park Chu-Young, Korea Republic are hoping in earnest to remain their sparking form but they must keep wary of the in-form Kuwait, who boast a balanced record versus the South Koreans, racking up 8 wins and 2 draws from a total of 19 meetings. In another game that features the 2 losing sides, Lebanon face an uphill task against UAE, who are expecting to bounce back with a win under Serbian coach Srecko Katanec.

Elsewhere, despite impressing in their openers, both Thailand and Singapore are aware they must gain points against Oman and Iraq respectively if they're to salvage any realistic desires. This can be also said of their fellow south-east Asians Indonesia, who can take heart from their previous 2-1 victory over Bahrain in the AFC Asian Cup 2007 as co-hosts.

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