Early start to WCup qualifying for weaker Asian soccer sides

Published 1:01 a.m. ET June 7, 2019

Asian soccer lesser-lights such as Mongolia and Pakistan are just 90 minutes away from a rare taste of the big time that could even include a match against the continent’s most famous player, Son Heung-min.

Less than 12 months after the 2018 World Cup final, the 12 weakest teams in Asia this week took the first step along the road to the 2022 tournament to be held in Qatar. The six that emerge as winners after next Tuesday’s second legs will progress to the group stage and potential match-ups with powerhouses such as Son’s South Korea, Japan and Australia.

The prospect of Son, Asia’s biggest name who last week appeared in the UEFA Champions League final with Tottenham Hotspur (a 2-0 loss to Liverpool), taking the field against Pakistan appeals very much to captain Zesh Rehman.

The British-born defender has past experience of facing the best attackers in the league during a spell in the English Premier League with Fulham, but a 2-0 loss to Cambodia on Thursday in Phnom Penh means that there is much to do in the return game for Pakistan.

“It would be huge for the whole country and it would be a significant achievement…

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