Japan and Saudi Arabia Book Their Tickets to FIFA 2022 World Cup
On the first day of the March break, Japan and Saudi Arabia have booked their places at the FIFA 2022 World Cup. The teams are the third and fourth Asian nations to secure spots at the 2022 tournament, after Iran and South Korea. Meanwhile, Australia will have to wait until Day Two of the window to see who they will face for a chance at the inter-confederation playoffs.
Two late goals from Japanese substitute Kaoru Mitoma against Australia's Socceroos saw the Blue Samurai move to the top of their group (Group B) and seal their place at the upcoming World Cup tournament. With the win, Japan leapfrogged Saudi into first place on 21 points, six ahead of third-placed Australia. Though the game saw relatively even possession, the Japanese team were in attacking mode and threatened the Aussies goal relentlessly. Gaps in the Socceroos defence let Mitoma slot the opener past their keeper in the 89th, then again in extra time as Mat Ryan struggled to keep a low shot from Mitoma from slipping through his fingers.
Australia can no longer finish higher than third place, and neither Oman nor China can overtake them. The Aussies will now play in a single playoff against the third-placed team from Group B to decide which will take a last stab at qualifying at the inter-confederation playoffs. Group B's third-place squad has yet to be determined.
Table leaders for the majority of Asia's final qualifying round for the World Cup, Saudi Arabia, dropped into second place after a surprise draw against China. The group leaders dominated their game against the Chinese and threatened to score multiple times. However, though Saleh Al-Shehri gave the Saudis the lead with a goal in the first half, a late goal from China's Zhu Chanjie stole away the win. The Green Falcons had to settle with a share of the points. Nonetheless, on 20 points and five clear of Australia, Saudi Arabia secured their slot in Qatar this November.
Iran and South Korea booked their tickets to Qatar in January. However, the fight for third place rages on, and the results from Day One of the March window didn't help make the race much clearer.
South Korea took a 2-0 victory over Iran and moved to the top of the leaderboard on 23 points. Iran remained on 22 points. Both teams are well clear of third-placed United Arab Emirates on 9 points. The UAE will have been looking for a win over Iraq to secure their playoff place against Australia. However, it was not to be. The Emirati team couldn't break down Iraq's defence to score despite dominating the ball. Meanwhile, Iraq's Hussein Ali Al-Saedi smashed home the winner in the 53rd. The win was Iraq's first of the round and has reignited their hopes of advancing to the third-placed playoff in June. The UAE will have to beat group leaders South Korea on March 29th and hope that Iraq loses to Syria to keep their dream of qualifying alive.
Lebanon, who had been only three points behind the UAE at the beginning of the window, saw their chances of qualification snuffed out with a 3-0 loss to Syria. The team now sits in fifth place behind Iraq on 8 points and the UAE on 9 points.
The draw for the knockouts of the 2022 World Cup is complete; tournament groups have been decided! Check out which teams are lined up to do battle in Qatar.
The three CONCACAF slots for the 2022 World Cup have been filled - Mexico, the USA, and Canada will join twenty-nine other nations in Qatar this winter.
New Zealand routed the Solomon Islands in the final of the Oceania qualifiers to reach the World Cup playoffs and for a chance to be at the 2022 tournament.
After over two years of qualifiers, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia are the five CAF nations to book their 2022 World Cup tickets to Qatar.