Japan, Korea Republic ready for final push toward Russia 2018

Highlights – FC Schalke 04 vs FC Bayern München

It’s all to play for as eight teams meet in the eighth round of AFC World Cup qualifiers on the Road to Russia.

Qatar vs Korea Republic

Second-placed Group A side Korea Republic face bottom team Qatar in Doha with a chance to solidify second place behind Iran, who secured qualification to Russia 2018 on Monday with a 2-0 defeat of third-placed Uzbekistan. Qatar still have a slim hope of securing third place, but with just one win from seven games it looks a tall order for Jorge Fossati’s side. Korea, meanwhile, will be hoping to bounce back from their disappointing defeat to China in their last away tie. They welcome back FC Augsburg winger Ji Dong-won from suspension as they bid for a first road win of the final qualifying stage.

Syria vs China

With both teams still with a chance of qualifying, Syria and China will be going for broke when the two meet in Syria’s adopted home of Malaysia. A repeat of China’s defeat to Syria in their first meeting would eliminate Marcello Lippi’s side, while a win would see China pull level with their hosts in fourth place on eight points. Three points for Syria would move them to within a point of third-placed Uzbekistan and a playoff place.

Iraq vs Japan

Group B leaders Japan have the chance to put some daylight between themselves and the two teams level on points with them – Australia and Saudi Arabia – when they play Iraq in Tehran. Iraq, like Thailand, are playing only for pride after defeat in their last match against the Saudis saw them eliminated, but they will be looking to impress caretaker coach Basim Qasim. Japan will be looking to extend their unbeaten run in qualifiers to seven games, but will have to do so without Shinji Kagawa after the Dortmund star dislocated a shoulder in the recent friendly with Syria.

Thailand vs UAE

The other Group B clash sees a battle of the new coaches as Edgardo Bauza’s UAE side take on bottom side Thailand in Bangkok. The already eliminated Thai’s are looking for a first maximum of the campaign under Milovan Rajevac, who replaced Kiatisuk Senamuang following the 4-0 reverse in Japan. It has been a disappointing tournament for the Thais who have only pride to play for, but they will have to win with a depleted side. Top scorer Teerasil Dangda is suspended, while Theerathon Bunmathan, Chanathip Songkrasin and Tristan Do are out injured. Bauza’s side need to win their three remaining fixtures to have a chance of qualifying as they lie fourth on nine points, seven behind joint group leaders Japan, Saudi Arabia and Australia.