Asian draw throws up intriguing clashes

1 Jul 2021
  • Asia's third-round draw unfolded on Thursday

  • IR Iran and Korea Republic are the Group A favourites

  • Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia are in Group B

Some familiar clashes decorate the group draw for the third round of Asian qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. IR Iran will face neighbours Iraq in Group A, with Korea Republic also in the mix, while Australia and Japan will collide for the fourth time running at this stage of the competition. The top two from the five-team groups will qualify for the World Cup, while the two third-placed sides will square off for a place in the intercontinental play-offs. Groups Group A: IR Iran, Korea Republic, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon Group B: Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China PR, Oman, Vietnam

Matchdays Matchday 1 2 September 2021 Matchday 2 7 September 2021 Matchday 3 7 October 2021 Matchday 4 12 October 2021 Matchday 5 11 November 2021 Matchday 6 16 November 2021 Matchday 7 27 January 2022 Matchday 8 1 February 2022 Matchday 9 24 March 2022 Matchday 10 29 March 2022

Big two the favourites in Group A IR Iran and Korea Republic will be the favourites to clinch the two automatic tickets to Qatar 2022. The teams have met nine times in the last five World Cup qualifying campaigns and have experience on the big stage. Team Melli have qualified for the last two World Cups, while the Taegeuk Warriors can boast a fourth-place finish at the 2002 finals. They will not, nevertheless, underestimate their group rivals. IR Iran lost 2-1 to Iraq in a 2019 qualifier, while Lebanon have caused surprises, including wins over IR Iran and a draw with Korea Republic during the Brazil 2014 preliminaries. Star players: Karim Ansarifard, Sardar Azmoun (IR Iran), Son Heungmin (Korea Republic), Ali Mabkhout (UAE) Trio meet again in Group B Group B had a familiar look to it with Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia all involved. The trio were pitted together in the group stage of the Russia 2018 qualifiers. Back then it was Japan and Saudi Arabia who advanced automatically, which left Australia to come through a play-off against Syria and then Honduras before sealing their place at the global finals. The repetition of the fixture between Australia and Japan has forged a particular rivalry between the teams. In the six games they have played over the last three World Cup qualifying campaigns, each side has won one game apiece with the other four fixtures ending in draws.

Elsewhere, China PR, coached by Li Tie and spearheaded by Wu Lei, will feel quietly confident that they can mount a serious challenge on the two group favourites. Oman will look to utilise Branko Ivankovic's vast knowledge of Asian football, while Vietnam will look to make a splash in their debut at this stage. Star players: Takumi Minamino (Japan), Mathew Leckie (Australia), Salman Al-Faraj (Saudi Arabia), Wu Lei (China PR)

What they said "Iran have always been a powerhouse of Asian football. I'm satisfied with the seven victories we had during the Asian qualifiers. More importantly, this result was achieved under great mental pressure in which no mistakes were allowed. We’re highly motivated and ready to take on any challenge." Dragan Skocic, IR Iran coach "We should not compare with our opponents and the most important thing we should do is to develop our players further. We should think it's a difficult and balanced group and we will try to do our best and achieve our goal which is to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.” Paulo Bento, Korea Republic coach "We've had good results but that doesn't guarantee success in the future. We always have to be ready for our next opponent. I think it’s a really difficult group and all our opponents are really good sides. We’ll just prepare and be ready for the qualifiers." Hajime Moriyasu, Japan coach "Both groups are strong but all we can do is focus on ourselves ... and make sure we get ourselves ready for whoever we play and whenever we play. I think this group shows you’re going to need a good amount of depth in your squad. What we learnt from the second phase, where we had to play seven out of eight games away from home and we won all eight games, it gives the players a lot of belief and confidence." Graham Arnold, Australia coach