Azkals grouped with China in World Cup, Asian Cup qualifiers

Tanya Simon
July 19, 2019

KUALA LUMPUR, The draw for Round Two of the Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 concluded in the Malaysian capital on Wednesday. The 12 sides will also automatically qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup.

In the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran participated. The teams that finish in third place will also reach the Asian Cup qualifying third round, where they will be joined by the four best fourth-placed teams.

Sides play each other twice during the qualifiers, which run from September to June.

The Blue Tigers' will most likely have to vie with Gulf Cup champions Oman to squeeze into the top two, with Asian champions Qatar strong favourites to take the top spot.

The Saudis, which played at the 2018 World Cup, are top-seeded in Group D that also has Uzbekistan, Palestine and Singapore. The neighbors meet in Group C which also has Bahrain, Hong Kong and Cambodia.

Keisuke Honda, a member of Japan's past three World Cup squads, will lead Cambodia into Group C following his appointment as national team manager previous year.

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North Korea and South Korea have been drawn together in an Asian qualifying group for the 2022 World Cup.

China, who are seeking to qualify for the World Cup for only the second time, look to have a promising fixture against lower-ranked opponents including war-torn Syria and tiny Guam. A fifth nation can advance to Qatar in an intercontinental playoff round in March 2022.

"The message I will share with the players when we play against North Korea is to give them the same respect we will have for any other teams we will play against". Qatar need not have entered qualification, but have done that to confirm their place in the 2023 Asian Cup. Africa's confederation will draw its first games next week and kick off in September.

There will be eight groups of five countries n the second round.

Qatar is spending tens of billions of dollars preparing stadiums and infrastructure despite an ongoing political and economic boycott by neighbors, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

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