The second half of Asia’s final round of qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia get underway tonight with Thailand hoping to breathe life into their disappointing Group B campaign.
Thailand vs Saudi Arabia
Thailand go into Thursday night’s clash with Group B leaders Saudi Arabia still searching for a first win, but will be heartened by their last outing when they were unfortunate to take only a point after a dominant showing in a 2-2 home draw with Australia.
The Thais were unlucky losers in their Group A opener against the Saudis, going down to a dubious late penalty in Riyadh, but will hope home advantage can inspire them onto to that elusive first win.
Coach Kiatisuk Senamuang said that Thai fans can help create an intimidating atmosphere at the Rajamangala Stadium and spur his team on to a similar level of performance as they achieved against the Aussies.
“A full-house crowd can lift our team, so it won’t be easy for the Saudis to take all the points. We’re no pushovers,” he added.
Iraq vs Australia
Iraq go into this must-win clash with nothing to lose having won one and lost four of their opening fixtures. Still, Aussie coach Ange Postecoglou is wary of the threat posed by the Lions of Mesopotamia and reckons Iraq are a lot better than their record shows.
“They don’t have as many points probably as their performances deserve,” Postecoglou said.
“We’ve seen in a couple of the games – particularly against Saudi Arabia – there were only two late penalties that cost them the game.”
“Nobody’s managed to beat us yet. Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he added.
Iraq come into the game full of confidence having beaten Iran in a recent friendly, a result coach Radhi Shenaishil said was ideal preparation for facing Australia.
“Both teams are physically strong, both teams play the same style. So the match was very useful,” he said.
“In every match we try to bring happiness to Iraqi people because the hard situation in the country.
“If we win, it can be a new era for the Iraq team.”
UAE vs Japan
Japan travel to Al Ain for a crucial clash between the second and fourth-placed teams looking for revenge after the UAE pulled off a surprise 2-1 win in Japan on Matchday 1.
Only one point separates Japan (10) and the Emiratis (9), so the stakes are high.
The UAE hold a psychological advantage over Japan having beaten them in their last two outings, and although coach Mahdi Ali is confident he is taking nothing for granted.
“Football doesn’t believe in history, what happened in the previous game is in the past,” he said.