|12 teams moving on to the next round. (Photo: AFC)
Asian World Cup Qualifiers Round 2 has revealed its list of final 12 teams moving on to the next round:
Group winners: Syria, Australia, IR Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Korea Republic
Five best runners-up: China PR, Oman, Iraq, Vietnam, Lebanon
|Team Syria. (Photo: Time Maganzine)
Performance in Round 2: Syria secured their position as Group A winners after a fantastic run of seven consecutive wins. Syria has never qualified for the World Cup finals but did reach the fourth qualification round in 2018.
Achievement background: In December 2012, Syria beat Iraq in the final of the West Asia Cup to collect its first major trophy. Syria has, however, competed in six Asian Cups, the last being 2019, but on each occasion were eliminated at the group stage.
|Team China. (Photo: AFC)
Performance in Round 2: China capped off an impressive couple of weeks and made it four wins on the trot with a 3-1 victory over Group A winners Syria which saw them book their place in the next round as the best runners-up. The result will be a major boost to Li Tie’s side as they beat the team that inflicted their sole defeat of the campaign back in 2019 (2-1). Wu Lei converted a penalty to score his seventh goal in the eight matches during the campaign and to end Syria’s perfect record during the 2022 qualifiers, according to FIFA.
Achievement background: China was runner-up at the AFC Asian Cup in 1984 and 2004 and made its sole FIFA World Cup appearance in 2002, losing all matches without scoring a goal.
|Team Australia. (Photo: ABC)
Performance in Round 2: The Socceroos have completed a perfect first phase of the 2022 World Cup qualification after defeating Jordan 1-0 to make it eight wins from eight games. With the eight straight wins setting a new record for the men’s team, Australia now advances to the next stage with 28 goals scored and just two conceded, according to ABC News.
Achievement background: Australia is the only national team to have been a champion of two confederations, having won the OFC Nations Cup four times between 1980 and 2004, as well as the AFC Asian Cup at the 2015 event on home soil. The team has represented Australia at the FIFA World Cup tournament on five occasions, in 1974 and from 2006 to 2018. The team has also represented Australia at the FIFA Confederations Cup four times.
|Team Iran (Photo: AFC)
Performance in Round 2: From Group C, Iran Islamic Republic of Iran also completed a fine return to form as they made it four wins out of four since the resumption of the Asian Qualifiers, defeating Iraq 1-0 to seal the top spot.
Achievement background: At the continental level, Iran has won three Asian Cup championships in 1968, 1972, and 1976. The nation’s best performance at the Olympics was reaching the quarterfinals at the 1976 Montreal Games. At the FIFA World Cup, Iran has qualified five times (1978, 1998, 2006, 2014, and 2018) and have never progressed beyond the group stages and have won only two matches: against the United States in 1998 and Morocco in 2018.
|Iraq uniform. (Photo: FIFA)
Performance in Round 2: Although they lost on the night against Iran, Iraq will also be joining their neighbors in the next round as the third-best runners-up, thanks to their consistency throughout the second round of the Asian Qualifiers.
Achievement background: Iraq is one of the more successful national teams in Asia, having made one FIFA World Cup appearance in 1986, losing their three games to Paraguay, Belgium, and Mexico. They are one of eight AFC nations to have won the AFC Asian Cup, claiming the title in 2007 in spite of difficult conditions and limited preparation. Iraq defeated some of the favorites in the competition including Australia, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. This qualified them for the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup where they earned two points in the group stage, and they later finished fourth at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. The team reached an all-time high of 39th in the FIFA World Rankings in October 2004.
|Team Saudi Arabi. (Photo: Arab News)
Performance in Round 2: Saudi Arabia was at their mercurial best as they confirmed the top spot in Group D with an emphatic 3-0 win over Uzbekistan, a result which meant the Central Asian side’s FIFA World Cup dream came to an end, according to AFC.
Achievement background: Saudi Arabia has won the Asian Cup three times (1984, 1988, and 1996), reached a joint-record six Asian Cup finals, and has qualified for the World Cup on five occasions since debuting at the 1994 tournament. Saudi Arabia is the first AFC nation to reach the final of a senior FIFA competition when it achieved during the 1992 King Fahd Cup, which would eventually become the eventual FIFA Confederations Cup.
In the 1994 World Cup under the leadership of Jorge Solari, Saudi Arabia beat both Belgium and Morocco in the group stage before falling to Sweden in the Round of 16, making it one of the few Asian national football teams (others being Australia, Japan, South Korea, North Korea) to accomplish such a feat to date.
|Team Oman. (Photo: AFC)
Performance in Round 2: Oman’s fabulous campaign was rewarded with Branko Ivankovic’s side advancing from Group E as one of the best five runners-up, with the West Asians defeating Bangladesh 3-0 on Tuesday to complete their campaign with an impressive 18 points.
Achievement background: The Omani Football Federation was officially founded in 1978, becoming a member of the AFC in 1979 and FIFA one year later. However, the Omanis participated in various tournaments before that date, most notably the early editions of the Gulf Cup. Oman has taken part in each World Cup qualifying campaign since Italy 1990 but is still searching for a first appearance at the finals.
|Team Japan (Photo: Sports Keeda)
Performance in Round 2: Japan was another team to complete their second-round campaign with a perfect record of eight wins, with Hajime Moriyasu’s side defeating the Kyrgyz Republic 5-1 in their final Group F tie on Tuesday and the Samurai Blue will now concentrate on qualifying for their seventh successive FIFA World Cup Finals.
Achievement background: Nicknamed the Samurai Blue, the Japan football team was not a major football force until the end of the 1980s, but since the 1990s, when Japanese football became fully professionalized, Japan has quickly emerged as one of the most successful teams in Asia.
The team has qualified for the last six consecutive FIFA World Cups with second round advancements in 2002, 2010, and 2018, and having won the AFC Asian Cup a record four times, in 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2011. The team has also finished second in the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2019 AFC Asian Cup. To date, Japan remains the only team from the AFC other than Australia and Saudi Arabia to have reached the final of a senior FIFA men’s competition.
|Team United Arab Emirates (Photo: AFC)
Performance in Round 2: The United Arab Emirates will be one of the most in-form sides heading into the next round. Bert van Marwijk’s charges held off Vietnam 3-2 to leapfrog them and win Group G.
Achievement background: Even before the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had a professional domestic structure, they had managed to make it to the FIFA World Cup, in 1990. They had lost all their games in the tournament but managed to score a goal against eventual champions West Germany. They have qualified for each and every edition of the Asian Cup barring the 2000 edition. Their best finish was as runners-up in 1996, coincidentally the last time they hosted it, Goal cited.
|Team Vietnam. (Photo: AFC)
Performance in Round 2: Though losing 2-3 to UAE in the final round 2 match, Vietnam was rewarded for their fine form by sealing a spot in the final round as one of the best runners-up.
Achievement background: Currently being considered as one of the most successful teams in Southeast Asia, Vietnam has already won the AFF Championship twice, in 2008 and 2018. At the continental level, the team reached fourth place twice as South Vietnam in the AFC Asian Cup, back when it was contested by 4 teams. They reached the quarter-finals twice as a united nation in 2007 and 2019.
|Team South Korea (Photo: Yonhap)
Performance in Round 2: South Korea had completed their Group H campaign on Sunday with a 2-1 win over Lebanon and the Taeguk Warriors will now look forward to sealing a place in the FIFA World Cup Finals for the 10th consecutive edition.
Achievement background: South Korea has developed and emerged as a major football power in Asia since the 1980s and is historically the most successful Asian football team, having participated in nine consecutive and ten overall FIFA World Cup tournaments, the most for any Asian country. Despite initially going through five World Cup tournaments without winning a match, South Korea became the only Asian team to reach the semi-final stages when they co-hosted the 2002 tournament with Japan. South Korea also won two AFC Asian Cup titles, and finished as runners-up on four occasions. Furthermore, the team won three gold medals and three silver medals at the senior Asian Games.
|Team Lebanon (Photo: FA Lebanon)
Performance in Round 2: Though lost their game to South Korea, the good news for Lebanon was that they sealed the fifth and final spot available for the best runners-up.
Achievement background: During their 2014 qualification campaign for the World Cup, Lebanon reached the final qualifying round for the first time thanks to a 2–1 victory against South Korea at home in 2011, but failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup finishing bottom of their group. At the 2019 Asian Cup, Lebanon was close to qualifying to the knock-out stages for the first time. However, they lost a tiebreaker to Vietnam in the third-place ranking on the fair play rule and were knocked out of the competition at the group stage.
The 12 nations will now be pooled in two groups of six for the third round, which is slated to begin in September this year.
The top two teams from each group will book a spot in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar while the two third-placed teams will fight it out to decide who will represent Asia in the intercontinental play-off.