China and Qatar face must-win qualifiers

BEIJING • Ambitious China and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar will come out fighting as they seek to salvage their bids to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia today.

China, with one point from their two games and lying fourth in the six-team Group A, entertain war-torn Syria - who are fifth - in Xian.

Rock-bottom Qatar have it all to do against Son Heung Min's South Korea, who lie third with four points. 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 game, hit back by beating Thailand, currently bottom. The third-placed team in Group B will be strong favourites when they take on Iraq, who are fifth and without a point, in Saitama.

Qatar are scrambling to reach their first World Cup before they host the tournament in 2022, but a third straight defeat would leave their chances remote.

They are also dealing with internal turmoil after Jose Daniel Carreno was sacked and replaced earlier this month with fellow Uruguayan Jorge Fossati.

The top two in each of the six-strong groups will book their places in Russia, while the two third-placed teams head into a play-off series.

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

When Group A's top two teams, Uzbekistan and Iran, clash in Tashkent, it will also be electrifying.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2016, with the headline 'China and Qatar face must-win qualifiers'. Print Edition | Subscribe