Iran to face China in 2018 World Cup qualifier

Indo Asian News Service

Tehran, March 28 (IANS) China will meet Iran on Tuesday night with the aim of keeping their hopes alive to qualify for the 2018 football World Cup in Russia. Iran, the Group A leaders in the Asian fixture, will move one step closer to the World Cup should they see off China at the Azadi Stadium here.

Iran, Asia's top-ranked team with the world ranking of 33, secured a 1-0 win over Qatar in Doha on Thursday to open up a four-point lead over second-placed South Korea.

A second win on the bounce would leave Carlos Queiroz's men within touching distance of automatic qualification, reports Xinhua news agency.

China, on the other hand, kept their World Cup hopes alive as Yu Dabao's solitary goal claimed a shocking 1-0 victory against South Korea on Thursday to give Marcelo Lippi's team their first victory in Group A.

Four points shy of third-placed Uzbekistan with four games left to play, China need more wins on the board if the team is to mount a realistic World Cup push.

Three points against Iran will rekindle the visitors' chances. The Chinese are hoping to continue their newly-rediscovered form by pulling off another major upset in Tehran.

Queiroz has spoken highly of team China coach Lippi ahead of the crucial match here on Tuesday.

The Italian's presence as China head coach is certain to elevate the games in Asia, Queiroz said.

He was quoted as saying that Lippi is a competent and knowledgeable coach, and that he will make China a stronger team.

Since being appointed in October of last year, Lippi has reignited China's bid to reach Russia 2018 World Cup thanks to a 0-0 draw with Qatar and, most recently, the vital 1-0 home win over South Korea.

Queiroz expressed his satisfaction regarding his team's preparation for the match against China, but conceded that "China is a well-organised" team with Lippi and saying the Iranians should be very careful.

On Sunday, Iran's Football Federation announced that the Iran-China match will be free for spectators.

The Azadi Stadium has an official capacity of 78,116 people.

Iran currently lead the six-team Group A with 14 points from six games. China are fifth with five points.

After the 10-game home-and-away round robin, the top two will qualify for the World Cup finals directly and the third finisher will enter playoffs with its counterpart in Group B.

--IANS

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