This is the tenth and final matchday of the third round of Asian World Cup 2022 qualifying.
The four automatic qualification spots have already been snapped up by Korea Republic, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Japan
Australia will compete in the fourth round play-off against one of United Arab Emirates, Iraq or Lebanon.
The winners of that tie will face a South American nation in June’s intercontinental play-off; either Peru, Chile, or Colombia.
United Arab Emirates vs Korea Republic
Will the United Arab Emirates keep their World Cup hopes alive?
Right now, Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s side sit third in Group A, which would see them advance to a play-off against Australia on 7 June.
However, their grip on this place loosened significantly on Thursday as the U.A.E were beaten 1-0 by Iraq in Riyāḍh.
So, they are just one point clear of Iraq, realistically needing to win here or risk being overtaken and therefore eliminated from World Cup qualifying.
No such worries for Korea Republic who’d already rubber stamped their place in Qatar before the start of this international window.
On Thursday, they beat the other side who’ve qualified from Group A, Iran, 2-0 in Seoul with Son Heung-min and Kim Young-gwon on target.
This saw Paulo Bento’s side move to the top of the table, looking to stay there with an eighth win from just ten matches in this group.
Even with nothing to play for, the Taegeuk Warriors are favourites to win at Al-Maktoum Stadium.
Syria vs Iraq
If the United Arab Emirates do falter, Iraq are in pole position to usurp them into third place.
That’s because, last time out, Abdul-Ghani Shahad’s side beat the U.A.E. 1-0 thanks to Hussein Ali Al-Saedi’s winner.
So, if the U.A.E. fail to beat group leaders Korea Republic, Iraq would qualify for the fourth round play-offs with a win just five miles across Dubai.
Syria thus should be perfect opponents as they’re rock bottom of this group with a measly five points to their name.
Thus Qasioun Eagles did though claim their first victory in this group on Thursday though, hammering Lebanon 3-0 in Sidon.
Alaa Al Dali, Mardik Mardikian and Mohammad Al Marmour all scoring.
Iraq are unbeaten in six meetings with Syria but five of these have ended in draws and only a victory will suffice at Rashid Stadium.
Iran vs Lebanon
If both the United Arab Emirates and Iraq lose, Lebanon could still leap above both of them into the play-off place.
Whilst that is possible, what goes against Lebanon is their inferior goal difference: -6 compared to UAE’s -1.
This less than advantageous position is largely a result of the fact that, on Thursday, the Cedars were demolished 3-0 at home by Syria.
So, Ivan Hašek’s side are almost certainly out the running in terms of qualification.
No such worries for IR Iran who’d already booked their ticket to Qatar even before this international window.
Dragan Skočić’s side won seven of their first eight qualifiers, drawing the other, so Thursday’s 2-0 defeat to Korea Republic in inconsequential.
Even with qualification assured, Iran are big favourites to win this one at Imam Reza Stadium.
Saudi Arabia vs Australia
Heartbreak for Australia, but their World Cup hopes are far from over yet.
On Thursday night, Graham Arnold’s side welcomed Japan to Sydney, knowing they needed a victory to have any chance of automatic qualification.
With the score goalless, the Socceroos went chasing a winner but were caught now once but twice, ultimately going down 2-0.
This defeat means Australia cannot finish in the top two of Group B, but it’s far from all over as they bid to qualify for a fifth World Cup in a row.
On 7 June, they’ll face a single-leg play-off in Qatar against one of the UAE, Lebanon or Syria, in which the Aussies will be favourites.
The winners of that will then face an intercontinental play-off against either Peru, Colombia or Chile which’ll be a much tougher assignment.
With, potentially, two huge games to come, will the Socceroos claim a morale-boosting win in Jeddah?
Saudi Arabia are the other team, along with Japan, who’ve qualified for the World Cup with their place secured courtesy of Australia’s defeat.
Later on Thursday, the Green Eagles played out an inconsequential 1-1 draw with China; Saleh Al-Shehri on the scoresheet in Šhārjah.
So, later this year, Hervé Renard will lead Saudi Arabia at their sixth World Cup, all of which have come since USA ’94.
Saudi Arabia have actually only ever won one of nine meetings with Australia, a 1-0 victory at the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Will there be a winner at King Abdullah Sports City?
Japan vs Vietnam
After a famous Thursday night in Sydney, Japan return home as heroes, looking to conclude a successful World Cup qualification campaign with a win.
Last week, Hajime Moriyasu’s side made the long journey south to Australia, knowing a victory would guarantee a top two finish.
With the game looking set for a goalless draw, substitute Kaoru Mitoma scored not once but twice in the final minute of the game to snatch the win for Japan.
This saw the visitors leave Stadium Australia 2-0 winners and it guarantees Japan have now qualified for a seventh successive World Cup.
They actually lost two of their first four games in this group but have won the subsequent six fixtures so are now top, a point above Saudi Arabia.
Will the Samurai Blue extend their winning streak?
This seems likely given that Vietnam are rock bottom of this group with their only win coming when China PR visited Hà Nội in February.
Hồ Tấn Tài, Nguyễn Tiến Linh and Phan Văn Đức the scorers that night in a famous 3-1 victory.
However, this is very much the outlier as the Golden Star Warriors have lost their other eight games so are set to finish bottom of the group.
Japan have won all four meetings with Vietnam, including a 1-0 win in November, and this trend is likely to continue at Saitama Stadium.
Oman vs China PR
Two teams, who’ve already been eliminated in Group B, go head-to-head in Mascaṭ.
It’s been another disappointing campaign for China who’s only victory in this group came against Vietnam in October; Wǔ Lěi with a 95th minute winner.
So, the Dragon’s Team have still only ever qualified for one World Cup, namely 2002, and that will not change later this year.
Oman are one place and five points better off than their visitors but are also out the running to qualify.
Branko Ivanković’s side took their tally to 11 points on Thursday by beating Vietnam 1-0; Khalid Al-Hajri the scorer in Hà Nội.
Both will be competing at next year’s AFC Asia Cup, that China will host, so attention now turns towards that.
Will there be a winner at Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex?
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