The second round of the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 Fifa World Cup 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup 2023 finally returns in full flow today after more than a year of inactivity due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with Bahrain hosting the Group C matches.
The national team will take on Cambodia at Bahrain National Stadium (tonight at 7.30pm) in a crucial match as part of the double qualifiers which will run until June 15.
Bahrain are currently second in Group C with nine points from two wins and three draws in their last five matches before the pandemic broke out.
Iraq top the table with 11 points, while third-placed Iran have six, followed by Hong Kong (five) and Cambodia (one).
A win in today’s match against Cambodia will put the national team on track to make it to the next round.
Led by Portuguese coach Helio Sousa, the national team have two more games ahead of them in their bid to make it to the third round. They will take on Iran on Monday before playing Hong Kong in their final match on June 15.
Bahrain drew 0-0 against Iraq at Amman International Stadium in Jordan in November 2019 and 1-1 at Bahrain National Stadium, squandering two precious points after leading 1-0 most of the match.
They beat Cambodia 1-0 in Phnom Penh and pulled a thrilling 1-0 victory against Iran at Bahrain National Stadium before drawing 0-0 against Hong Kong in an away match.
The leaders of each of the eight groups and the best four second-placed teams qualify for the third round of World Cup qualifiers, and book a berth directly to the 2023 Asian Cup finals.
The national team drew 1-1 in a friendly match against Ukraine in Kharkiv before beating Malaysia 2-0 at Bahrain National Stadium.
Coach Sousa is banking on the players who won the West Asian Football Federation Championship and the Gulf Cup in 2019 to take Bahrain to the World Cup for the first time in their history.
Bahrain twice came close to qualifying for the World Cup, reaching the Asian playoffs in the qualifiers for Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010. They lost to Trinidad and Tobago and New Zealand respectively.
Sousa has lined up 26 players. They include Ali Haram, Ali Madan, Hamad Shamsan, Sayyed Hashem Isa, Jassim Al Sheikh, Kumail Al Aswad, Mohammed Marhoon, Sayyed Ridha Isa, Sayyed Mahdi Baqer (Riffa); Ahmed Mirza, Mohammed Abdulwaheb (Hidd); Ibrahim Lutfallah, Sayyed Shebr Alawi and Ahmed Bu Ghamar (Al Khaldiya); Abdulwahab Al Maloud, Ismail Abdullatif, Sayyed Mohammed Jaffer and Waleed Al Hayyam (Muharraq); Abbas Al Asfoor (Al Shabab), Jassim Khulaif (Budaiya), Ahmed Nabeel (Manama); Mohammed Al Romaihi and Abdulla Buhazza (East Riffa); Rashid Al Hooti (Al Najma) and Sayyed Dheya Said (Al Nasr - Kuwait).