Iran face stern tests in Iraq and Bahrain
South-east quartet grouped together
Australia resume rivalry with Jordan
Asia's top forty teams have learned the hurdles they must overcome on the road to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ after the draw for the second qualifying round took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Wednesday.
Divided into eight groups of five, these sides will battle it out against each other across ten months from 5 September 2019 to 9 June 2020, with the eight section winners and four best runners-up advancing. Should Qatar win their group, the other seven group winners and five best runners-up who progress to the next stage.
Conducted by FIFA Director of Competitions Christian Unger and Australian FIFA Legend Tim Cahill, the draw did provide some enticing pairings which see familiar foes reunite. Meanwhile, there are emerging sides who enter this campaign seeking to mount serious challenges to the traditional powerhouses. Join FIFA.com as we take a closer look at the groups.
Group A: China PR, Syria, Philippines, Maldives, Guam Group B: Australia, Jordan, Chinese Taipei, Kuwait, Nepal Group C: Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Cambodia Group D: Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen, Singapore Group E: Qatar, Oman, India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh Group F: Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Mongolia Group G: United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia Group H: Korea Republic, Lebanon, Korea DPR, Turkmenistan, Sri Lanka
Group G is definitely an interesting one to watch with four South-east Asia teams crossing paths in what looks a regional competition. Joining the quartet is the group's top seed, United Arab Emirates, who aim to seal their World Cup return. While the Italy 1990 participants are the highly-favoured side, they cannot underestimate their competition. Both Thailand and Vietnam pose a threat considering their impressive displays in this year's AFC Asian Cup, while Indonesia and Malaysia can spring a surprise or two.
There will likely be a three-way battle in Group C, with Asia's top-ranked side Iran pitted against a pair of nemeses in Iraq and Bahrain. Team Melli may enter the campaign as the team to beat, but both rivals have historically proved capable of causing them headaches. Iraq scored a 2-1 victory against Iran on the road to USA 1994, while Bahrain can take heart from their famous 3-1 stunner in 2002 World Cup qualifying.
Asia's most successful side on the qualifying scene, Group H top seed Korea Republic, enter the competition with their sights fixed firmly on their tenth World Cup appearance. While a place in the next round appears within their grasp, Paulo Bento's Taegeuk Warriors will need to be wary of the resilient Korea DPR and Lebanon.
Group B will see Australia and Jordan resume their fast-developing rivalry, having played against each other in four World Cup qualifying matches for the past two World Cups. Each side has two victories from those encounters, but Jordan's recent 1-0 Asian Cup win provides them with a boost.
China PR and Syria are likely to dominate the proceedings in Group A, which also features the Philippines, Maldives and Guam. Marcello Lippi's new-look Team Dragon will enter the group determined to seal the top spot.
In Group D, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan cross swords in what will be their fifth World Cup qualifying encounter. While the two sides are favourites to finish at the top, Palestine have proved hard to crack, while both Yemen and Singapore can impress when they are on top of their game.
With reigning Asian champions and the 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar the undisputed favourites to win Group E, Oman and India will likely be left vying for the second spot and a potential qualifying position.
It looks a kind draw for Japan alongside the likes of Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Myanmar and debutants Mongolia. The only question mark may be which side can take the second qualifying spot.
Two years, five months and 24 days is the length of time required to decide Asia's qualified teams for Qatar 2022, with the massive campaign running from 6 June 2019 till 16 November 2021.