Singapore chasing big win after first round farce

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BANGKOK, Nov 8 (Reuters) Singapore are going all out for victory at home to Tajikistan tomorrow when they face their first real test of their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign following a farcical first round triumph over Palestine.

The three-times Southeast Asian champions, whose opponents failed to show up for their last match, are hoping to take a sizable advantage into the second leg to secure a berth in the group stages of regional qualifying for the South Africa finals.

Their coach Radojko Avramovic, who was left seething after last week's unexplained no-show by the Palestinians, said Singapore were now playing catch-up against a team they know little about.

''Palestine disrupted our preparation in a big way, we needed a competitive match and we didn't get that,'' Avramovic told Reuters.

''So we are preparing for this game seriously. We need the home win and can't leave it to the second leg.'' The Serb said a third-round place would show how much Singapore had improved since the last campaign, where they lost five of their six matches.

''It (qualifying) will make us step up to a higher plane and show how much we've improved,'' he said.

THIN AIR Singapore's arch-rivals Thailand have a tricky match away to Yemen, where the thin air in the ancient highlands city of Sana'a could pose problems for the visitors.

The team will also be without influential captain Tawan Sripan due to injury.

Thai coach Charnwit Polcheewin said training this week in Sana'a, which is over 2,000 metres above sea level, had been a bit of a struggle.

''I'm worried about the weather... this could affect our players,'' he said. ''I watched them train and some had breathing problems.'' One-time qualifiers Indonesia start their World Cup campaign at home to Syria after being given a first round bye but will be without injured regulars Ricardo Salampesy and Supardi in defence.

Coach Ivan Kolev said he would field three players up front but gave little else away.

''We still have two days to determine our main squad against Syria,'' he told the Jakarta Post.

''I will only field players who are fit and in their best form.'' Hong Kong take on Turkmenistan on Saturday off the back of an 11-3 aggregate thrashing of winless East Timor in the first round.

Turkmenistan coach Rahim Kurbanmamedov has named a full-strength squad containing only one local-based member, with 18 players picked mostly from the Azerbaijani and Uzbek leagues.

The four second round winners will join 16 others in the third round, where they will be split into five groups of four teams, including top seeds Japan, South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and newcomers Australia.

The top 11 seeded first round winners moved directly into the third round.

REUTERS TB HS1739

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