China and Iraq face a critical World Cup qualifying clash on Tuesday as Asia’s big powers look set to step closer to the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
The match is shaping up as a tense affair after Zico, coach of the 2007 Asian champions, called it a must-win. The teams are level on points in Group A behind leaders Jordan with four rounds to play.
“The situation of Iraq in the qualifiers is critical, we have no choice other than victory against China,” the Brazilian legend warned.
“China is good and well prepared team and will be playing at home. We have to be cautious but the players’ confidence is sky-high.”
China coach Jose Antonio Camacho blasted his team as “lazy” and threatened to banish some players from his squad after last week’s friendly against UAE, when they were forced to hang on for a 2-1 win.
“We should have scored more goals in the first period. But I am not satisfied with our performance in the second half. We appeared lazy, running less than our rivals,” Camacho said after the UAE win.
“We were losing our tempo and passion, I am not satisfied with the substitutes in the second half, they had to know if they play like this, they would never appear in the my squad again.”
The former Spain and Real Madrid manager will be uneasy about the Iraq game after also overseeing an unconvincing win over Singapore and a defeat to Jordan in World Cup qualifying since taking charge.
Jordan look set to extend their stay at the top of Group A when they take on Singapore, who are without a point so far, on the artificial pitch of Jalan Besar Stadium.
“This is the first time Jordan team is near to going to the next round… our dream is very big now,” said coach Adnan Hamad.
Meanwhile Australia captain Lucas Neill vowed there would be no complacency against unfancied Oman as the Socceroos bid to make it three wins out of three in Group D.
“We all know that a win would be an important win, but we all respect and follow the theory that no games are easy and we shouldn’t think we’ve won before we’ve won,” Neill said.
Thailand can cement second spot behind Australia when they host Saudi Arabia, while in Group C North Korea will hope to boost their chances of reaching a second successive World Cup with a home win against Uzbekistan.
In Group B, Lebanon and Kuwait also look set to be scrapping for the second qualifying berth behind South Korea, who are at home to winless UAE.
Level-pegging Iran and Bahrain face off for the Group E leadership in Tehran, while Indonesia play Qatar in Jakarta.
The winners and runners-up of the five groups will be drawn into two pools for the round-robin fourth stage, with the eventual top two in each section earning a ticket to Brazil.
The two third-placed teams will then face each other for the right to contest an intercontinental play-off.