June 8 – Syria headlined World Cup qualifying in Asia by becoming the second country to qualify for the third and final round of the campaign en route to Qatar following a 3-0 win against Guam.
In 2017, Syria got within touching distance of the World Cup finals before the Australians broke their hearts in the playoffs, and again Syria can’t be discounted to go all the way.
On Monday, they joined Japan in the third round of World Cup qualifying after putting three past Guam to ensure top spot in Group A with 21 points. The Syrians are on an unbeaten run of seven games.
In second spot, China trail Syria by eight points after a laboured 2-0 win against the Philippines. The Chinese had to wait until the second half to make the difference. They are now competing for a slot amongst the best placed teams coming second to qualify for the next round (12 teams to play-off in two groups of six with top two in each group qualifying).
Australia consolidated their top spot in Group B with a comfortable 5-1 win over Chinese Tapei to maintain a perfect record with 18 points from six games. The Socceroos have two games remaining against Nepal and Jordan. Graham Arnold rotated his starting eleven from the 3-0 victory over Kuwait and all of Harry Souttar Jamie Maclaren, Trent Sainsbury, Mitchell Duke, with a brace, got on the score sheet.
In Group C, Iran moved with two points of group lead with a 3-0 victory against Bahrain. They will face rivals, neighbours and current group toppers Iraq in a mouthwatering clash that could decide the group on June 15. Sardar Azmoun struck twice for Iran to score his 35th and 36th international goals in just 54 matches for his country.
India has no World Cup ambitions, but in Group E it’s looking to ensure participation in the continental finals and by beating neighbours Bangladesh 2-0 the Blue Tigers took a major step towards the final round of Asian qualifiers. Once again, the peerless Sunil Chhetri came to the rescue of his team with two late goals. At 36, Chhetri now has 74 international goals.
Qatar remain unbeaten in the group. The captain of the World Cup hosts Hassan Al-Haydos struck from the penalty spot to edge Oman 1-0.
In Group G, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates are in a two-horse race for top spot. The Vietnamese have a two-point cushion over Bert Van Marwijk’s team following a 4-0 win over Indonesia. The UAE, who defeated Thailand 3-1, will play Indonesia next while Vietnam face Malaysia.
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