Football: China, Qatar seek World Cup boost

BEIJING (AFP) - Ambitious China and 2022 hosts Qatar will come out fighting as they seek to salvage their bids to reach the 2018 Russia World Cup on Thursday.

China, with one point from their two Group A games so far, entertain war-torn Syria in Xian, while rock-bottom Qatar, also in the same group, have it all to do against Son Heung Min's South Korea.

Asian champions Australia have strolled through their first two Group B games but it has not been plain sailing for the region's other World Cup regulars.

Japan, stunned 2-1 by the United Arab Emirates in their first Group B game, hit back by beating Thailand and they will be strong favourites when they take on Iraq in Saitama.

Vahid Halilhodzic has called up winger Manabu Saito, as the third-placed Asian champions look to close the gap on Australia and Saudi Arabia in Group B.

South Korea were surprisingly held 0-0 by Syria in their second outing but they will be expected to blow a giant hole in Qatar's World Cup bid in Suwon.

The top two in both of the six-strong groups will book their places in Russia, while the two third-placed teams head into a play-off series. The loser will then take on the fourth-placed North & Central American zone team for a Finals spot.

Australia top Group B on goal difference from Saudi Arabia, with both teams on a maximum six points - ensuring a fervent atmosphere when they meet in Jeddah.