Battle for Brazil cranks up a gear

South Asians’ Middle East mission

Nepal, who are coached by former England international Graham Roberts, eased into the second round with a 7-1 aggregate win over Timor Leste but will find a much sterner challenge in the shape of Jordan as the two teams meet for the first time.

Nepal’s South Asian neighbours Bangladesh, India and the Maldives are also in the Middle East this weekend.

Bangladesh negotiated their passage through the initial phase with a 3-0 aggregate win over Pakistan to set up a second round meeting with Lebanon while the Maldives renew acquaintances with Iran, who defeated the Indian Ocean islanders 26-0 over two legs in the 1998 World Cup qualifiers.

India, who were spared a first round fixture, take on the UAE in a match they will be approaching with confidence.

India will not only be able to count on a sizeable support at the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium from the Indian expatriate community in the UAE but Armando Colaco’s side will also be buoyed by the shock 2-1 victory over Qatar in a friendly against the 2022 World Cup hosts in Doha last Sunday.

Qatar’s loss to India represents the 2011 AFC Asian Cup hosts’ fifth match without a win under recently appointed head coach Milovan Rajavec, following draws with Russia (1-1) and Neuchatel Xamax (2-2) and defeats to FC Lausanne (3-0) and Bayern Munich (4-2).
 source: AFC

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