ASEAN sides prep up for final set of World Cup qualifiers ties

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04 Jun 2024


There’s plenty at stake for Southeast Asia’s representatives as the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ enters its business end with Matchday Five and Six set to be played on June 6 and 11 respectively. 

As many as 36 teams from across Asia have been in action in the qualification campaign with the top two sides from each of the nine groups making it to the third round of the World Cup qualifiers and booking a place in the 2027 Asian Cup, while the third and fourth-placed sides progress to the third round of Asian Cup qualifiers. 

Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Myanmar and the Philippines are the eight ASEAN sides who are still in the running in the qualification campaign and all eyes will be on them as the competition enters its final two matchdays. 

Indonesia, under head coach Shin Tae-yong, have been one of the standout performers in the second round after being pooled with Iraq and fellow ASEAN sides Vietnam and Myanmar in Group F. Tim Garuda sit second with seven points and in their penultimate match will face an Iraq side who have already booked their place in the next round. 

With a youthful squad, the Indonesians opened their campaign with a 5-1 defeat to Iraq and a draw with the Philippines but bounced back with impressive wins against Vietnam at home and away ties in March. They will now hope to end their campaign on a high with home ties against Iraq and Azkals. 

“Iraq is the best team in the group. They are not an easy opponent for us, but this is a home match. We will try to give everything in this match so that we can get a good result,” said Korean tactician Shin. Meanwhile, 19-year-old attacking midfielder Marselino Ferdinan, who started both wins against Vietnam, added: “We have to win both the matches and we players are ready for this match.”

Staying in Group G, the all-ASEAN clash between Vietnam and the Philippines will mark a new era for the Golden Star Warriors as Kim Sang-sik takes charge of the side. Vietnam, then under Philippe Troussier, began their campaign with a 2-0 win against the Filipinos on Matchday One, but has since then lost three straight matches. 

“For me, all opponents are the same. It has been some time since the team has posted a win, and this is also the debut match of our new coach. We players believe that we can win this match, especially as we play at our home ground in My Dinh,” said Vietnam’s attacking midfielder Nguyen Hoang Duc ahead of their clash with the Philippines, whose hopes of making it to the third round of World Cup qualifiers ended with a 5-0 loss to Iraq on Matchday Four. 

Meanwhile, Thailand will hope to get one over China PR in Shenyang after suffering a late 2-1 defeat to the East Asians in Bangkok on the opening matchday. The War Elephants, who suffered a 3-0 defeat to Group C leaders Korea Republic in their last outing, are only three points behind second-placed China and can bolster their hopes of progress with a win at Rajamangala National Stadium on Thursday. 

With Asia having a confirmed allocation of eight teams for the 48-team tournament to be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026, it will be an opportunity for the likes of Thailand to stake their claim for a place in the global showpiece. And for their veteran striker Teerasil Dangda, it could be his last chance to help guide Thais to a historic berth at the World Cup. 

“At my age, this is probably my last chance to play in the World Cup. I have two more matches, so I will do my best if I have the chance to play. I hope that our qualification campaign will not end here and we will go to the next round,” said the 35-year-old Teerasil who returned to the Thai squad for matches against China and Singapore after missing March’s fixtures as well as the 2023 Asian Cup. 

Singapore, on the other hand, got their first point on board in the second round when Jacob Mahler netted a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw with China and Tsutomu Ogura’s side will hope to build on that result when they face Korea Republic, under interim head coach Kim Do-hoon, followed by their final outing against the Thais on June 11. 

Malaysia, in Group D, have won two of their four outings and trail the top two of Kyrgyz Republic and Oman by three points. However, Harimau Malaya head into the games against the Kyrgyz and Chinese Taipei having to deal with the absence of key players including Faisal Halim, Akhyar Rashid, Romel Morales and Syafiq Ahmad. 

“This is a difficult situation because we are facing problems in the attack. But we still have players who can carry out the responsibilities. We will not give up, we will keep looking forward and remain positive to fight in the name of Malaysia,” said their head coach Kim Pan-gon ahead of the final set of fixtures. 

Elsewhere, Australia, who already secured a place in the next stage with four wins out of four matches in Group I, will wrap up their campaign with outings against Bangladesh and Palestine. Myanmar, the other ASEAN side in the campaign, will host Japan before travelling to face DPR Korea in their final game looking to improve their tally of one point.

Photo: PSSI