Woeful Indonesia on the brink of World Cup exit

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Bangkok, Nov 16: Indonesia have a mountain to climb to reach their second World Cup finals after being thrashed by Syria in last week's second round qualifier.

Beaten 4-1 at home in the first leg and criticised for having a convicted criminal for a soccer president, a third-round place is a now a distant hope for the 1938 World Cup qualifiers.

''It's bad, bad,'' Bulgarian coach Ivan Kolev said after last week's defeat, which followed a protest by angry fans calling for the removal of jailed president Nurdin Halid.

''I can't believe this...three months after the Asian Cup, our players forgot what is modern soccer.

''This team is not ready. Two weeks they are not ready for the match.'' With a squad full of part-timers, Syria's victory in Jakarta was the surprise of the round and they could be a team to avoid if they end up in the World Cup qualifying draw later this month.

UPPER HAND

Singapore and Thailand have the upper hand over their opponents going into Sunday's second round, second leg matches after solid performances last week.

Thailand, courtesy of in-form striker Surayuth Chaikamdee's goal, managed to hold a feisty Yemen to a 1-1 draw on a bumpy pitch in front of thousands of jeering fans in the thin mountain air of Sana'a.

The striker, who was dropped for the Asian Cup, has now scored six goals in three games.

A 0-0 draw in Bangkok will see the Thais through to the third round and coach Charnwit Polcheewin is expected to recall Singapore-based Sutee Suksomkit and Therdsak Chaiman for the match. He will also prepare his defence for an aerial attack from the taller Yemeni players.

''We have to work on defending against high balls,'' Charnwit told the Bangkok Post. ''I'm confident we will beat Yemen.'' Singapore face Tajikistan and will again rely on Bosnian-born Aleksandar Duric, the S-League's top scorer, who was recently granted citizenship after seven years living in the city-state.

Duric, 37, scored twice on debut to give the Lions a comfortable two-goal cushion into the return leg in Dushanbe, although the Tajiks say it is not all over yet.

''We did not bring along our best players for this game,'' Tajik coach Makhmadhli Khabibulloev said.

''We will have home advantage and will use our best players against Singapore.'' Hong Kong failed to utilise their home advantage by drawing 0-0 with Turkmenistan, but coach Kenny Lai Sun-cheung says one goal in Ashgabat will be enough to progress.

''It was a bit disappointing, as we were in command of the match,'' Lai told Hong Kong media.

''If we score a goal in the return leg, they need to score two to beat us, (so) this will give us a better chance.'' Sunday's winners will meet the 11 teams given a bye to the third round after winning their first round games, plus the five seeds -- Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and newcomers Australia.

The top four Asian teams will qualify for the 2010 finals in South Africa, with fifth place given the chance to go through via a playoff with the Oceania zone winners.

Reuters
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