Although there were no big surprises in Asia on Wednesday, the results have left the teams involved with food for thought for the three remaining matchdays.

Despite being denied an early berth at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, Australia are the closest of all in Asia to completing their qualifying mission. Their 2-0 home win over Uzbekistan saw them return to the top of Group 1 with 13 points from five matches. A single point against Qatar in the next game on 6 June at Doha will see them through to join hosts South Africa at world football's showpiece event.

Second-placed Japan are also on verge of qualification, but only a victory in Tashkent against Uzbekistan in their next outing can guarantee their appearance at their fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup finals.

The same can't be said for the teams in Group 2 where Korea Republic are only a point clear of Korea DPR and Saudi Arabia who are locked level with ten points each.

The next game will see coach Huh Jung-Moo's Taeguk Warriors facing UAE who, after being eliminated following their 2-3 against Saudi Arabia, have nothing to play for but pride. However, a victory over the section's basement side will not be enough for the South Koreans who have both Korea DPR and Saudi Arabia breathing down their necks.

Even fourth-placed Iran are still in with a shout. With six points gained and three games still to play, they could possibly turn the corner should they snatch a maximum nine points.

With a coveted place at the global extravaganza on the line, tension is already mounting in the final phases in Asia. But as history shows, only the most consistent and resilient performers are able to go through.

With the benefit of hindsight, Iran will testify, with agony, that any good work might be undermined by the slightest of slip-ups in the closing stages. In qualifying for France 1998, Team Melli comfortably led Saudi Arabia by four points with three games remaining, but they still contrived to miss out on the only automatic qualifying spot after a series of below-par performances.

They did no better four years later, when they were a point clear of Saudi Arabia going into the closing game. With the relatively straightforward task of taking on Bahrain, few were betting against the Iranians. However, they suffered an unexpected 3-1 defeat while Saudi Arabia ran out 4-1 winners over Thailand. Once again, lack of consistency again saw Iran deprived of an automatic berth.

With the favourites setting their sights firmly at the automatic qualifying spots, the realistic goals for the chasing pack might be taking third spot. Bahrain have reinforced their bid with the 1-0 win over Qatar, but who they may face in the play-off for the right to face New Zealand for a place at South Africa 2010 is still anyone's guess.