This international break coming up is an anomoly. There haven’t been any World Cup Qualifiers since November and after next Tuesday, there won’t be any more Qualifiers until the Oceanic confederation has their games in late May and early June. After that, World Cup Qualifiers won’t be in full force until late August.
So while no one will be able to clinch World Cup Qualification this weekend, many teams from Asia and CONCACAF will be able to clinch advancement to their respective final round of World Cup Qualifying.
In CONCACAF, 12 countries are currently alive for six spots in “The Hex” and will have two games left in their group after next Tuesday. In the AFC, 22 countries are still alive for 12 spots in their final stage of World Cup Qualification. We will look at every country who has a chance to clinch advancement to the next stage of World Cup Qualifying this international break.
In CONCACAF, only three countries can clinch and that’s a bit of a stretch if we’re being honest. Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States can clinch advancement with their two World Cup Qualifiers this week if any of the three beat their opponents twice. Mexico plays Canada, Costa Rica faces Jamaica and the United States play Guatemala. Two wins against their opponents and they are good to go to “The Hex.”
Asia isn’t as cut and dry with their scenarios as CONCACAF. The AFC will finish up their second round of World Cup Qualification so at least by next Tuesday, we will know the 12 nations still alive to qualify out of Asia. But there are some who can clinch early. In this round, 1st place automatically advances to the next stage while the top four countries who finish 2nd in the group will also qualify. We are only going to focus on automatic qualification here because we could probably write a book on clinch scenarios if we did it for 2nd place. That being said, we will still show countries not yet eliminated even if they are mathematically out of 1st place. We’ll look at it group by group.
Group A – Saudi Arabia 16 points, United Arab Emirates 13, Palestine 9
Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. are the only two nations who are still looking at 1st place. If Saudi Arabia wins against Malaysia Thursday, they clinch. If Saudi Arabia loses or draws and U.A.E. beats Palestine Thursday, that sets up a showdown between Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. next Tuesday where the winner gets 1st place but 2nd will have a great chance at advancing as well. For Palestine, they pretty much need to win against U.A.E. and Timor-Leste if they want to qualify.
Group B – Australia 15 points, Jordan 13, Kyrgyzstan 11
In a very similar situation as Group A, Australia and Jordan play each other next Tuesday if Australia cannot clinch with a win against Tajikistan and Jordan loses to Bangladesh. Jordan is going to have some reinforcements as Harry Redknapp is going to manage the national team for these two games. Kyrgyzstan has an outside shot but while Australia and Jordan have two games left, Kyrgyzstan only have a game against Tajikistan next Tuesday and pretty much must win that for a chance to advance.
Group C – Qatar 18 points, Hong Kong 14, China 11
Qatar has clinched 1st place and will advance since Hong Kong only has one game left and Qatar and China both have two. Hong Kong and China are facing off for 2nd place and China has a game in hand to try and make up the three points.
Group D – Iran 14 points, Oman 11, Turkmenistan 10
Iran and Oman are the only two teams able to get 1st place and just like in Groups A and B, both will face each other next Tuesday where the winner gets top of the group if Iran and Oman are both able to win. And that will likely happen as Iran faces India and Oman goes against Guam Thursday. For Turkmenistan, they only play one game against India so while they will likely win, only have a game instead of two for their rivals.
Group E – Japan 16 points, Syria 15
Seeing the trend yet? It’s shockingly a coincidence but next Tuesday, Japan and Syria will play each other where the winner gets 1st if both win Thursday. Japan will go against Afghanistan while Syria plays Cambodia. But considering how many points both team has, I don’t think either one needs to worry about not advancing if they were to finish 2nd in their group.
Group F – Thailand 13 points, Iraq 8, Vietnam 4
This group will likely be settled Thursday as Thailand face Iraq and Iraq faces a must win if they want to win the group. Vietnam will need a ton of help as well as win both games against Iraq and Chinese Taipei if they don’t want to get eliminated.
Group G – South Korea 18 points, Kuwait 10, Lebanon 10
South Korea joins Qatar as the only two nations to have clinched qualification to the next round of World Cup Qualifying. The battle will be for 2nd between Kuwait and Lebanon for a chance at advancing.
Group H – North Korea 16 points, Uzbekistan 15
Uzbekistan is a point behind North Korea but Uzbekistan need to play two games while North Korea only has one. North Korea will play the Philippines next Tuesday while Uzbekistan plays the Philippines Thursday and Bahrain next Tuesday. This is the most unpredictable group and it’s literally a 50/50 chance for either North Korea or Uzbekistan to win the group. Considering the point total, there is a good chance the 2nd place team will also advance.
So while it would seem like there isn’t much going on this week, there actually will be a lot of movement in World Cup Qualification. For one thing, at least 10 more nations from Asia will be eliminated from the World Cup and we could see a total of 15 nations advancing to the next round of World Cup Competition