Spots secured in Asia as Canada close in

  • IR Iran and Korea Republic qualify

  • Canada tighten their grip with three wins from three

  • Joy for Uruguay, despair for Colombia

At the end of a dramatic week of FIFA World Cup™ qualifying action across three continents, in which ambitions were realised, hopes revived and dreams dashed, we round up the main events.

AFC: Iran, Korea Republic through as Socceroos stumble

Success stories

IR Iran and Korea Republic’s stranglehold on Group A was strengthened by successive wins for each as first Team Melli, then the Taegeuk Warrios, sealed their spots at Qatar 2022. Despite losing to Iran on Tuesday, UAE remain well placed to finish third and earn a play-off spot after beating Syria in their previous game and seeing their rivals falter. Japan were the biggest winners in Group B, meanwhile, earning back-to-back victories over China PR and Saudi Arabia that have left them just one point off the section-leading Saudis.

Tales of woe

Although still within reach of UAE in Group A, the hopes of both Lebanon and Iraq were severely dented, with each side taking just one point from a possible six over the past week. Australia, meanwhile, slipped three points behind Japan in Group B after conceding a costly late equaliser to draw 2-2 in Oman. That result also served to officially end the hopes of Branko Ivankovic’s Omani hopefuls, who had gone down 1-0 to Saudi Arabia five days earlier.

The stat

16 – Their 2-0 reverse in Saitama ended Saudi Arabia’s impressive 16-match unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying. Their conquerors, meanwhile, look to have unearthed a reliable goalscorer in Junya Ito, the Genk forward who has found the net in each of the team’s last four preliminary matches.

The standings

Group A

TeamPlayedPointsGD
IR Iran1025+11
Korea Republic1023+10
United Arab Emirates10120
Iraq109-6
Syria106-7
Lebanon106-8

Group B

TeamPlayedPointsGD
Saudi Arabia1023+6
Japan1022+8
Australia1015+6
Oman1014+1
China PR106-10
Vietnam104-11

What’s next?

Two rounds of matches remain, with all eyes sure to be on Australia’s decisive double-header against Japan (H) and Saudi Arabia (A) on 24 and 29 March.

Canada keeper Milan Borjan celebrates after defeating the USA 2-0 in men s World Cup Qualifier at sold out Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario Sunday Jan. 30, 2022. Canada News - January 30, 2022.

Concacaf: Brilliant Canada on the brink

Success stories

With a home showdown against USA sandwiched in between two tough away trips, many wondered if this was the period in which table-topping Canada would begin to falter. As it was, John Herdman’s side thrived under the pressure, winning all three matches to stretch their lead over the US to four points and put themselves within touching distance of a first FIFA World Cup since 1986. USA and Mexico had to make do with strengthening their grip on the second and third automatic qualifying slots, with seven points from nine leaving El Tri four clear of fourth-placed Panama.

Tales of woe

Two defeats in their three matches have left Panama’s hopes of a top-three finish hanging by a thread, and Costa Rica are now just one point behind Los Canaleros in the race for fourth and an intercontinental play-off spot. Honduras, meanwhile, lost all three of their fixtures and remain rooted to the foot of the table.

The stat

18 – Canada are unbeaten in their last 18 World Cup qualifiers, with their last defeat having come against Honduras over five years ago (in September 2016). John Herdman’s side have also kept 11 clean sheets in their last 16 preliminary matches.

The standings

TeamPlayedPointsGD
Canada1428+16
Mexico1428+9
USA1425+11
Costa Rica1425+5
Panama1421-2
Jamaica1411-10
El Salvador1410-10
Honduras144-19

What’s next?

Everything will be decided over three rounds of matches between 24 and 30 March, with Costa Rica-Canada and Mexico-USA mouth-watering fixtures with which to open that massive triple-header.

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY - FEBRUARY 01: Edinson Cavani of Uruguay celebrates after scoring the third goal of his team during a match between Uruguay and Venezuela as part of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers at Centenario Stadium on February 01, 2022 in Montevideo, Uruguay. (Photo by Pablo Porciuncula - Pool/Getty Images)

CONMEBOL: Celeste surge as Cafeteros crumble

Success stories

With back-to-back victories over Paraguay and Venezuela, Uruguay emerged as the week’s biggest winners. La Celeste now occupy South America’s fourth and final automatic qualifying slot, one point ahead of Peru, who followed up a huge 1-0 win in Colombia by drawing 1-1 at home to third-placed Ecuador. The already-qualified duo of Argentina and Brazil continue to flex their muscles too, with Lautaro Martinez on target in successive wins for La Albiceleste, and the in-form Raphinha sparking a 4-0 Seleção success against Paraguay.

Tales of woe

Colombia’s fragile hopes were further dented by two 1-0 defeats, at home to Peru and away to Argentina. Los Cafeteros, who reached the knockout stage of the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups, now languish in seventh position, five points adrift of Uruguay and four behind Peru in the intercontinental play-off spot. Bolivia, meanwhile, are officially out of contention after back-to-back losses – the same fate that befell the bottom two sides, Paraguay and Venezuela.

The stat

7 – Colombia have remarkably failed to score in each of their last seven World Cup qualifiers. They now have just one win from their last 11 matches in this competition.

The standings

TablePlayedPointsGD
Brazil1745+35
Argentina1739+20
Uruguay18280
Ecuador1826+8
Peru1824-3
Colombia18231
Chile1819-7
Paraguay1816-14
Bolivia1815-19
Venezuela1810-20

What’s next?

The final two rounds of South American qualifiers will be played on 24 and 29 March, with Uruguay-Peru a potentially decisive fixture on the first of those dates.