Three match days have come and gone in the qualifiers and now we are in the midst of a 3 month hiatus; Asian World Cup qualifiers will resume in September. Until then we will leave you with a slightly different take on the match day round up series. This post will also double up as a review of the groups so far. You can find the second match day round up here.
Three out of the ten scheduled match days are done, and so we take stock with 30% of the football played. First, though, a quick run through of the match day 3 results.
The day’s big match and Asia’s glamour tie was the first to kick off, Australia hosting Asian champions Japan in Brisbane (a replay of the Asian Cup 2011 final). A packed stadium saw out a 1-1 draw that stood out as much for its refereeing blunders as it did for its football, Kurihara scoring for Japan & Wilkshire equalising for Australia, both teams had a man sent off and Australia’s home record continues; their last defeat at home came in 2009-over three years ago now. Group B’s second game saw Iraq and Oman play out a dire game of football to a 1-1 draw, the result left a lot to be desired for Iraqi football fans, Oman counting the game as away (played in Neutral Doha, the venue of Iraq’s “home”games) will be content with two points from two difficult games in a row. Group A had two matches, the first of which was a formality, South Korea putting 3 past underdogs Lebanon in Goyang. While the second game saw Iran entertain Qatar in Tehran, only not much entertainment took place and the game saw no goals.
So, a pretty disappointing day which promised to clear things up a bit in the groups, but served only to frustrate and disappoint. With that out of the way, we will take each group individually and look at how things stand.
South Korea expectedly top this group with 6 points from 2 games, then come Iran and Qatar both on 4 points followed by Uzbekistan and Lebanon each with a solitary point.
The main talking points of this group involve the three teams forming the middle of this group as it stands, namely Iran, Qatar & Uzbekistan. Iran & Uzbekistan both looked very strong in the previous round, however they have both failed to carry their previous round form into the crunch round and their results have been sub par. Iran managed to secure a fortunate win away in Tashkent, and then drew at home to Qatar, very unconvincing from Team Melli but it is still very early on in this campaign and longevity is the key.
As for Uzbekistan, I fear that they are having another nightmare final round, and by firing Abramov after their initial loss to Iran, they have not done themselves any favours. An away draw to Lebanon is worrying, and if the White Wolves hope to make their World Cup debut in Brazil they will have to break this psychological barrier and play as we have seen them play in the previous round and against Iran in Tashkent. Kasimov has his hands full but will have plenty of time to reflect and make his choices. Qatar meanwhile have every chance of causing an upset and securing second spot or even the play off place. Their loss at home to Korea is not hugely unexpected and the real deciding games will come against Iran and Uzbekistan. Korea should comfortably top this group if they continue their clinical and professional performances, while Lebanon look likely to languish in the final position.
At present this group is a case of Japan…then the rest. The Samurai Blue top the group comfortably with 7 points from three games including an away draw to Australia, their toughest fixture of the whole qualifying campaign. So we can safely assume (barring some minor miracle/crumble) that they will be partying in Brazil.
The rest have really disappointed so far in these qualifiers. Out of all the games played so far without Japan being one of the sides taking part, each and every one has ended in a draw, and a generally drab one at that. The stat tells the tale well enough, and there hasn’t been much to separate the sides. Australia will still be favourites to claim the second spot, mainly due to their ability to grind out results when necessary and their fearsome home record, and with the return of Cahill to the squad they have received a timely boost. Iraq have been toothless; while they have bested both Oman & Jordan on the field, they haven’t made it count and instead have drawn two games in a very meek manner, disappointing results considering how ruthless they were in the previous round. Zico seems very apprehensive and more keen to stop the other teams from scoring rather than have his own players find the back of the net, Iraq have started with just one striker in both their games, Mahmoud has cut a lone figure, the manager seemingly content to only make changes in the last few minutes bringing on both Karim and Alaa who have livened up the attack each time they have had a run around. They will only have themselves to blame if they do not at least finish 3rd in this group.
Jordan, meanwhile, have shown why they would not be a good representative for Asia at 2014, by falling well foul of a rampant Japan, their only hope will be in their derby games against Iraq & oman where form and quality will mean nothing. Oman used home advantage well against Australia to bounce back from a loss in Japan, but again have looked very average and not deserving of a spot on the world stage.