Asia World Cup Qualifying Preview

North Korea - UAE Top spot beckons for North Korea. All they have to do is beat UAE at home on Saturday to jump above the inactive South Korea and into top spot in Group Two. The 1966 World Cup quarter-finalists are currently sitting in second at the halfway stage and three points will set them up nicely for a crunch visit to Seoul next Wednesday. It could be an interesting afternoon by the Taedong. DPR Korea are in an unusual situation of being expected to win for perhaps the first time in the final round of qualification. Their counterattacking game worked against Saudi Arabia and UAE in Abu Dhabi in the group opener but the expected crowd of around 90,000 will want to see the hosts attack from the off. They have the capability to do so and will be helped by the fact that UAE also need to win. Penetrating the famed NK back line can be tough but chances are sure to come the way of the Chollima. Much depends on the attackers but this is a focused and determined group of players. PREDICTION Both teams are desperate to win, so there should be goals. With the UAE defence suspect, it is hard to foresee anything other than a fairly tight home win. North Korea 2-0 UAE Iran - Saudi Arabia Iran are in a stronger position than the visitors with two more points in the bag and around 80,000 more supporters in the stadium. There is still a lot of football to be played and as both teams have failed to shine in recent games, nothing will be taken for granted. Currently in third place in the group with six points from four games, a win could return Iran to the top two automatic qualification spots. It would be a welcome return ahead of tricky trips to Pyongyang and Seoul. Ali Daei has been enjoying the luxury of spending time with overseas stars such as Javad Nekounam, Masound Shojaei and Mehdi Mahdavikia in the build-up to the game. He needs to make full use as his position will be in serious jeopardy if Iran lose. Warm-up games against Kuwait and Kenya have been won but performances were not impressive and fans were restless. Much of the build-up has been dominated by Daei’s decision not to call Ali Karimi. Failure to win will see that backfire. PREDICTION Iran will be a little too strong for the visitors but it promises to be a tense evening… Iran 2 – 1 Saudi Arabia


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