Heavyweight tussles loom large in Asia
Asia's final qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ promises plenty of excitement on Tuesday's matchday 3, with Australia hosting Japan as the continent’s two top-ranked nations clash. Arriving at Brisbane with two opening home wins, the Japanese are hoping to further strengthen their grip on Group B with a third victory. However, the Samurai Blue's form will come under scrutiny from the Socceroos, who have a strong historical home record and will be desperate to reduce the gap on the Asian champions with their first win.
Iraq and Oman, meanwhile, clash in Doha still searching for their first win in the section's other match. In Group A, it is a quartet of familiar foes from the previous stage that meet with Iran welcomingQatar, while Korea Republic will entertain Lebanon in a keenly-anticipated rematch. Join FIFA.com as we detail these epic clashes.
Asian final qualifying round, matchday 3 fixtures:
Group A: Iran-Qatar, Korea Republic-Lebanon
Group B: Australia-Japan, Iraq-Oman
This pair have played out five momentous tussles in recent years starting with the 2006 FIFA World Cup when Australia secured a famous comeback win. However, Japan prevailed in the last meeting seeing off their rivals in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup final when Tadanari Lee's extra-time volley earned Alberto Zaccheroni's side a spirited 1-0 triumph. But Holger Osieck's Socceroos can take heart from their overwhelming record in the FIFA World Cup, staying undefeated against Japan with two wins and a draw.
Keisuke Honda is the key man as Japan seeks to upstage their hosts. Hot off some impressive performances against Oman and Jordan, the CSKA Moscow midfielder will aim to continue to his dangerous attacking forays and clinical finishing. The home side, for their part, will look to the creative form of Mark Bresciano, who emerged the best player for a largely disappointing Australia in their goalless draw against Oman. However, question marks remain over the fitness of Socceroos’ talismanTim Cahill, who sat out their opener in Muscat.
The other attractions
Iraq and Oman will be the beneficiaries should Osieck’s side drop points at home, and either of the pair can move second behind Japan with a win. Paul Le Guen’s Oman arrive at Doha with a surprisingly dominant head-to-head record over the past decade, edging Zico’s Iraq with four wins to two, including a 4-0 friendly victory three years ago. However, it is the Iraqis who have come up strong in major competitions. They snatched three points over two legs against the Omanis on the road to Italy 1990, before prevailing 2-0 in a 2000 AFC Asian Cup qualifier.
Lebanon takes on hosts Korea Republic still lamenting the loss of injured captain Roda Antar. Playing without the Shandong Luneng midfielder in the two sides' first-leg meeting from the previous stage, the Cedars conceded six unanswered goal at Goyang. With Antar pulling the strings, however, Theo Bucker's outfit stunned the Taeguk Warriors 2-1 in the return. Despite missing Arsenal striker Park Chu-Young who netted three times against Lebanon in the 6-0 defeat, coach Choi Kang-Hee's new-look charges thrashed Qatar 4-1 in the opener and are hoping to continue their impressive run against Lebanon. Boosted by some improved play against Uzbekistan in the 1-1 draw, the visitors must prove they can maintain the performance level, with or without Antar.
Elsewhere, Iran and Qatar cross swords in Tehran for their seventh FIFA World Cup qualifying meeting, having claimed two wins and two draws each from their previous six encounters. Both teams take the field at the Azadi Stadium seeking to top the section with a win, although Paulo Autuori's visitors must put a heavy 4-1 home defeat to Korea Republic behind them, while Carlos Queiroz' hosts will aim to improve their performance after a fortuitous opening 1-0 defeat of Uzbekistan. With playmaker Mojtaba Jabari ruled out due to injury, Ali Karimi is expected to provide the attacking spark from midfield. The Qataris, will likely look to the striking duo of Yousef Ahmed and also Ibrahim Khalfan, who opened the scoring in the two sides' last 2-2 draw.
Player to watch
Tim Cahill has been a thorn in Japan’s side over recent years having twice been the two-goal hero asAustralia won 3-1 at Germany 2006, before edging the east Asians 2-1 on the road to South Africa 2010.
7 - Level with six goals each, both Japan forward Shinji Okazaki and Iraq captain Younis Mahmoudenter the matchday seeking to level or even surpass the seven-goal mark set during Asian qualifying by Vietnamese marksman Le Cong Vinh.
What they said
"We have lost three points (against Korea Republic), but we need to understand we are moving up and we are improving. We have to learn from our mistakes and we cannot be afraid. I hope my players will forget this match and focus on Iran," Qatar coach Paulo Autuori
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