Asian World Cup qualifying will go down to wire

The USA is in much better shape after its 6-0 win over Honduras and 1-1 tie with Panama, but if form held through the remainder of World Cup 2018 qualifying in Concacaf -- every team won its remaining games at home and lost on the road -- it would still finish in fourth place in the Hexagonal.

That would be good enough to face Asia's fifth-place team in an intercontinental playoff in November but not good enough for direct qualification via Concacaf's three automatic tickets to Russia 2018.

It's a good time, then, to take a peak over at Asia qualifying and see how things stand:

Asia Group A:
17 Iran 5-2-0
13 South Korea 4-1-2
12 Uzbekistan 4-0-3
8 Syria 2-2-3
5 China 1-2-4
4 Qatar 1-1-5

Asia Group B:
16 Japan 5-1-1
16 Saudi Arabia 5-1-1
13 Australia 3-4-0
9 UAE 3-0-4
4 Iraq 1-1-5
1 Thailand 0-1-6

Given the presence of two countries -- Iran and Syria -- on President Donald Trump's contested travel ban and a third that was on his initial list -- Iraq -- a U.S. playoff series against one of those three nations would be one for the ages in terms of international tension.

Such a showdown is unlikely at this point, though. Iran, coached by former MetroStars coach Carlos Queiroz with a coaching staff that includes Portuguese-American Dan Gaspar, is in best shape to clinch one of Asia's four automatic berths -- two from each group -- while Syria and Iraq, which both lost qualifiers on Tuesday, trail in their groups.

Iran remains unbeaten after seven games and has a four-point lead on second-place South Korea and a five-point lead on Uzbekistan.

South Korea's mark of having qualified for the last eight World Cup finals -- a record no other team outside of Europe or South America can match -- is in some danger of not finishing in the top two.

For its final group game on Sept. 5, the Koreans must travel to third-place Uzbekistan, which has made the final qualifying round in Asia each time it has entered since moving from Europe but has never traveled to the World Cup.

In Group B, Japan and Saudi Arabia are tied for first place, three points ahead of Australia, but it is anyone's race as all three teams face each other on the final three match days, beginning with the Australia-Saudi Arabia game on June 8.

The Socceroos then travel to Japan on Aug. 31, and Group B play ends Sept. 5 with a Saudi Arabia-Japan game.
1 comment about "Asian World Cup qualifying will go down to wire".
  1. Quarterback TD, March 30, 2017 at 11:27 a.m.

    Iran will be more welcome in Russia than us. Also FIFA will suspend the USSF if any government involvement. However it's inevitable that we meet one of these countries so expect some drama.

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