Saudi Arabia vs Jordan, Qatar vs Kuwait and difficult draw for Syria against Japan

Sports News
2023-07-27 | 08:52
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Saudi Arabia vs Jordan, Qatar vs Kuwait and difficult draw for Syria against Japan
Saudi Arabia vs Jordan, Qatar vs Kuwait and difficult draw for Syria against Japan

Asian joint qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the 2027 AFC Asian Cup revealed their second-round groups, and Saudi Arabia found itself in Group 1 alongside Jordan, while Qatar was drawn with its neighbor Kuwait. Iraq was grouped with Vietnam, and Syria faces a tough challenge against the strong Japan.

The Asian continent will be represented in the 48-team World Cup hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico for the first time. The teams are divided into eight groups, with the possibility of increasing to nine based on the intercontinental play-off results.

The draw took place at the Asian Football Confederation headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. Saudi Arabia, which will host the 2027 AFC Asian Cup, was placed in Group 7 with Jordan, Tajikistan, and the winner between Cambodia and Pakistan.

During the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Saudi Arabia caused a huge upset by defeating eventual champions Argentina before exiting in the group stage.

As for Qatar, the 2019 AFC Asian Cup champions, they were placed in Group 1 with Kuwait, India, and the winner between Afghanistan and Mongolia. Qatar hosted the 2022 World Cup for the first time in the Middle East but made an early exit from the tournament.

In another Gulf showdown, the United Arab Emirates, who participated only once in 1990, were drawn with Bahrain in Group 8, along with the winner between Yemen and Sri Lanka and the winner between Nepal and Laos.

Seeking its first-ever World Cup qualification, Syria faces a formidable test against Japan, which is accustomed to qualifying easily for the global event held every four years. Syria was drawn in Group 2 along with North Korea and the winner between Myanmar and Macau.

Iran, looking to secure its fourth consecutive World Cup appearance and hoping to reach the knockout stage for the first time in its history, was placed in Group 5 with its Central Asian neighbors Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, as well as the winner between Hong Kong and Bhutan.

Iraq, seeking its second World Cup qualification after 1986, was drawn in Group 6 with Vietnam, the Philippines, and the winner between Indonesia and Brunei.

Palestine and Lebanon were placed in Group 9, which also includes the top-seeded Australia, along with the winner between the Maldives and Bangladesh.

Group 3 witnessed a tough clash between East Asian giants South Korea and China, alongside Thailand and the winner between Singapore and Guam.

Oman hopes for a smooth qualification from Group 4, which includes Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, and the winner between Chinese Taipei and Timor-Leste.

The second round comprises 36 teams divided into 9 groups, each consisting of four teams competing in a double round-robin format from November 2023 to June 2024.

The top two teams from each group qualify for the third round of the World Cup qualifiers while also securing their spots in the 2027 AFC Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia.

The draw for the third round of the World Cup qualifiers will take place in 2024, with the 18 qualified teams divided into three groups of six teams. The top two teams from each group will directly qualify for the World Cup, while the two remaining Asian spots will be determined through an intercontinental play-off in the fourth round, with a chance for an additional spot through a fifth-round play-off.

The remaining 18 teams from the second round will move on to the third and final round of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers. The AFC will announce more details about this stage later.

Regarding the first round of the qualifiers, where 20 teams compete in ten matches with home and away fixtures on October 12 and 17, 2023, the winners will advance to the second round and join the top 26 teams in the rankings.

During a meeting on July 1, the AFC Competitions Committee decided that the Northern Mariana Islands national team would not participate in Thursday's draw as they are eligible for the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers but not qualified for the 2026 World Cup. They will enter the intercontinental play-off, joining the losing teams from the joint first-round qualifiers.

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