[WORLD CUP 2010 QUALIFYING] The fourth round of games in Asia's final qualifying phase takes place Wednesday. Australia travels to Bahrain in Group 1, hoping to keep its 100 percent record intact. In Group 2, South Korea will attempt to beat Saudi Arabia for the first time in almost two decades.
Wednesday November 19 (all times ET)
Bahrain vs. Australia (10 am)
Qatar vs. Japan (11:30 am)
Standings:Australia (6 points), Japan (4), Qatar (4), Bahrain (1), Uzbekistan (1)
Australia travels to Bahrain with six points from two games, five goals scored, none conceded, and is the only team in the region still with a 100 percent record. But the team is aware that there are no easy games in Asian qualification, unlike in its old stomping ground of Oceania.
"I think this is going to be a very tough game," said Australian captain Lucas Neill in the Sydney Morning Herald. "Obviously the fact we've put ourselves out in front now, we're there to be beaten. There won't be a chance for complacency because the manager [Pim Verbeek] and I won't allow it. We're here to win another game, and if we can win that game then what a fantastic position we'll be in."
Japan is also unbeaten, but with four points out of a possible six, and travels to Qatar, which has the same number of points but has played one game more. Qatar collapsed 4-0 to the Australians last month, and the Japanese will want to capitalize on the home team's bruised confidence. Glasgow Celtic's Shunsuke Nakamura remains an injury doubt for Japan -- the midfielder has flown out for the game, despite aggravating a knee problem in club action at the weekend, but it's unclear if he will be fit in time to play.
Wednesday November 19
United Arab Emirates vs. Iran (10:15 am)
Saudi Arabia vs. South Korea (11:35 am, live on Fox Soccer Channel)
Standings: South Korea (4 points), Iran (4), Saudi Arabia (4), North Korea (4), United Arab Emirates (0).
The United Arab Emirates has lost both of its first two games, and both were at home, so beating Iran in its own stadium Wednesday is an absolute must if it wants to remain in contention. The Iranians, though, are unbeaten so far and share the lead on points with three other countries. It picked up a useful road point in Saudi Arabia in its opening game, before beating North Korea last month in Tehran, 2-1.
In the group's second game, live on FSC, both Saudi Arabia and South Korea are also unbeaten after two games. Both their wins so far have come at the expense of the UAE. South Korea welcomes veteran goalkeeper Lee Woon-Jae, 35, back into the squad following his one-year ban from the national team for a nightclub incident. The keeper has been in great form for his club, the Suwon Bluewings, helping them to the regular season title by conceding just 27 goals in 37 games.
The South Koreans have not beaten the Saudis for 19 years, during qualifying for the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Format:The top two teams from each group will qualify directly for South Africa 2010. The third-placed teams from each group will play a home-and-away playoff, with the winner advancing to the inter-confederation play-off with Oceania winner New Zealand.