China hope Korea bounce can push them past Iran
CHINA are hoping to reproduce the form that gave South Korea palpitations last week as they take on heavyweights Iran in another big World Cup qualifying test today.
China fought back from 3-0 down to make it 3-2 with 14 minutes left in Seoul, ensuring a tense finale to a game which South Korea had looked like wrapping up with ease.
While China started the final round of Asian qualifying with a defeat, they are taking heart from the performance ahead of today’s home game against Iran in Shenyang.
“I don’t think we have much pressure,” said Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder Huang Bowen, according to the Global Times. “I just hope we can play the way we did in the last 15 minutes against South Korea.”
China are bidding to reach only the second World Cup in their history in a tough Group A, which also includes 2022 hosts Qatar, Uzbekistan and Syria.
“Iran are stronger than us,” said Huang. “But we are playing at home, so I hope we can deliver.”
The top two teams from both of the six-strong Asian groups will earn spots at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, while the third-placed teams go into a playoff series.
Carlos Queiroz’s Iran are Asia’s top-ranked side at 39th in the world, and they started the qualifying round with a 2-0 victory over Qatar in Tehran – although both goals came in injury time.
“It’s going to be very tough ... We come from different results in the first games, but the situation is reversed now that China will play at home,” Queiroz said, according to the Global Times.
In Bangkok, Japan desperately need a win after their shock loss to UAE, but it won’t be easy for the fourtime Asian champions at a steamy Rajamangala Stadium.
Outspoken AC Milan forward Keisuke Honda read his younger teammates the riot act after last week’s shock 2-1 defeat to UAE and an uncounted goal, telling them they need to work harder.
Meanwhile the UAE can seize the initiative in Group B when they host Australia seeking for their second big upset in as many weeks.
Asian champions Australia were tentative in last week’s 2-0 win over Iraq in Perth, and home conditions will suit UAE with free entry expected at Abu Dhabi’s 42,000-capacity Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.
Elsewhere, Syria will play their “home fixture against South Korea in Malaysia, which is also hosting Iraq’s game against Saudi Arabia.