Dubai: The United Arab Emirates, who are in the running to finish third in Group A in the Asian qualifiers for a shot in the play-off for a berth in Fifa World Cup in Qatar, will be taking on Iraq in Riyadh on Thursday. Lebanon host Syria in Sidon in the other qualifier of the group in the region.
The UAE, under new coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena, are third at the moment with nine points, three ahead of the Lebanese with Iraq a further point adrift.
The two third-placed teams meet in a play-off in Qatar on June 7 before taking on South American opposition for a spot at the finals a week later.
Iran and South Korea have already claimed the two automatic berths available from the group, with the pair facing off in Seoul on Thursday in the battle for top spot.
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu, who has experienced joy and despair throughout World Cup preliminaries, will eye a victory over Australia in Sydney on Thursday as it will guarantee a happy conclusion to a dramatic campaign.
Both Japan and Saudi Arabia can confirm their spots for Qatar this week from Group B with Herve Renard’s Saudi side set to advance if they beat an already eliminated China in Sharjah.
The Saudis lead the group by a point from Japan with Australia in third, three points behind Moriyasu’s side and needing to defeat the ‘Samurai Blue’ to put their qualifying fate back into their own hands.
Seventh World Cup on the trot?
The Japanese are on the verge of a seventh consecutive World Cup despite a poor start to the final phase of qualifying, when losses against Oman and Saudi Arabia raised questions over Moriyasu’s future.
But the former Sanfrecce Hiroshima boss has come through that slump to lead his side to five straight wins, including a 2-1 victory over the Australians in Japan in October, and another three points will be enough to secure a place in Qatar.
“Australia were very strong and their intensity level was high when we played them last October,” Moriyasu told the Asian Football Confederation’s website.
“I am quite sure that the next game is going to be more aggressive and intense than our last game, and think it will be a good game of football.”
- With inputs from Reuters