The travel restriction due to COVID-19 has disrupted the fixtures of World Cup 2022 qualifiers, including in Asia, where the upcoming edition is held on November and December next year. The entire remaining AFC qualifying round was expected to resume next March as there are plenty of games to finish for the second round before continuing to the crucial stage on the third decisive round. However, considering the latest situation and the current restrictions in most countries, only four games are set to play next month while the rest are postponed in June. Those four matches held in March are

  • Nepal vs Australia (group B) in Kathmandu on 30th March
  • Saudi Arabia vs Yemen (Group D) in Riyadh on 25th March
  • Tajikishtan vs Mongolia (Group F) in Dushanbe on 25th March
  • Mongolia vs Japan (Group F) in Chiba on 30th March

Furthermore, it has been reported that FIFA has approved the AFC’s plan to have a centralised format to finish the remaining fixtures with one nation as a host in each group. Such centralised qualfying round, which could also be adapted by other regional federations which has several stages in their qualifiers before the securing the final berths such as Oceania and Concacaf, are set to take place from 31st May to 15th June 2021.

AFC World Cup Qualifiers are currently on the second round with eight groups consisting of 5 or 6 teams. Only the group leaders plus four best runner ups can advance to the third round. At that stage, all those 12 teams are divided in two groups with the top two from each deserve four automatic tickets while the teams on the third in the standings shall battle for one remaining spot via regional and international play offs. The famous Asian teams such as Japan, Australia and South Korea are definitely the favorites to progress to Qatar 2022.

Meanwhile, FIFA has just released the latest World Rankings this week, and those three are still on the top five of AFC teams in the rank. The 2019 Asian Cup runners up is sitting on the 27th while the Socceroos and Taeguk Warriors are on the 41st and 38th. The World Cup host, Qatar, remains on the 58th, while Iran is actually only two places below the Samurai Blue. Here is the list of complete top ten teams in the recent FIFA Ranking:

  • Japan (no. 27), 1502 points
  • Iran (no.29), 1496 points
  • South Korea (no.38), 1495 points
  • Australia (no.41), 1457 points
  • Qatar (no.58), 1391 points
  • Saudi Arabia (no.67), 1353 points
  • Iraq (no.69), 1347 points
  • UEA (no.74), 1326 points
  • China (no. 75), 1323 points
  • Syria (no.76), 1313 points