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Which team from Asia has the chance to qualify for the round of 16?

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Asian Federation is historically known as the weakest football federation in the world. Asian Countries have done nothing much in the world cup. The furthest Asian team went in the world cup was in 2002 when South Korea qualified for the Semi-Finals of the world following some very controversial decisions in the Quater-Finals and Round of 16. This time as well it doesn’t seem like South Asian nations can pose much of a threat. So making it out of the group stage will be the biggest achievement the Asian team can achieve in this tournament.

There will be five Asian teams participating in the world cup, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, and host Qatar themselves (Australia has been skipped as they might be in Asian Federation but are technically not Asian).

For a team to qualify, they must finish in the top 2 of the group. In most cases, 4 points can secure the road for the knockouts. That means a win and a draw might be able to qualify from the group but the difficulty in getting those four points depends on the strength of the squad and the quality of the opposition in the group.

In this article, we discuss the way how Asian Teams can qualify and the probability of their qualifications.

1) Qatar

This will be the first time Qatar will be playing in the world cup. They have never qualified for the event before this time. Even this time, they didn’t qualify but were selected as the host so they got a secured place in the world cup. 

Qatar is in the same group as Ecuador, Senegal, and the Netherlands. Ecuador is the only team that looks beatable by Qatar. Although Ecuador is stronger than Qatar, the home support of the host nation might come as an aid for them. For them to qualify they need to win against Ecuador and salvage a point against Netherlands or Senegal also finishing with a better goal difference.

FIFA World Cup 2022
Qatar squad for FIFA World Cup 2022.

Injury to Senegal’s elite Sadio Mane means chances of Qatar against Senegal increase. According to our evaluation, Qatar has the second biggest chance(After South Korea) in the whole of Asia to qualify as a host nation is already a big boost plus they are in good form. Making them the favorites to qualify for knockouts among Asian teams. According to the bookies, the chance of Qatar’s qualification is +500.  

2) Iran

Before the 2022 edition, Iran participated in six editions but has never managed to qualify from the group stage. They came close in 2014 but narrowly missed out after the draw against Portugal. In the six editions of the world cup, they have managed to win just two games.

Iran is drawn in group B with England, Wales, and the USA. Iran probably has the easiest group to qualify for the knockout of the world cup but sadly they don’t have the strong squad like others. For Iran to qualify, they need to win and draw a game against USA and Wales. Wales and USA both have terrible forms. If those forms continue, Iran can easily qualify.

Iran national football team
Iran set to face England in the opening match of Group B at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. AP

Sadly they don’t have the strong squad they had in 2014 or 2018. They have very low odds of qualification i.e +400 for qualification. The poor performance from Wales in the nations league proves they can be defeated with ease. Wales was able to get just one point out of a possible eighteen in the six games of the tournament. So Saudi Arabia must be targeting a win against Wales which will boost their chance of qualification.

3) Japan

Japan first time qualified for the world cup in 1998 and has never missed a single world cup since then. However, Japan has managed to get out of the group stage 50% of the time. In World Cups, Japan has won five games, drawn five, and lost eleven games. Japan is also the only Asian team to qualify for the knockout stage since 2010.

Japan faces Germany in the opening game of Group E at the FIFA World Cup 2022
Japan squad for the FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar.

Japan is drawn into the group of Death with Germany and Spain. Costa Rica is also in the group. Although Japan has a strong squad for an Asian team, getting out of this group seems unlikely to them as they need to draw at least one match against Germany and Spain to qualify (and Need a win against Costa Rica) which seems unlikely.

If it happens it might cause a group-stage upset for one of the European giants. At the end of the day, it’s football, and anything can happen. Due to the very strong squad, Bookies have favored Japan with +350 for qualifying. Even though Qatar and Iran have an easier group than Japan, they have fewer odds than Japan which displays their strength.

4) Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has played in 5 world cups before 2022. In those five tournaments, they have won three games, drawn twice, and lost eleven games. They also managed to qualify to knockout once in 1994 which was the first-ever tournament they played in.

Saudi Arabia Football team ahead of one of their games for the FIFA world cup 2022, Qatar.
Saudi Arabia, Argentina first opponent in the FIFA World Cup 2022 group stage.

Saudi Arabia is drawn into a very tricky group with Argentina, Poland, and Mexico. All three teams in this group are way better than Saudi. This is why the middle eastern team needs to beat one of the two Mexico and Poland to even have a chance of qualifying. Out of all the teams we discussed Saudi seems to have the least chance of qualification for the round of 16. Not only we but bookies also think the same. With odds of +700, they have the least trust among bookies on the Asian side.

5) South Korea

South Korea has played in eleven world cups. The highest among any Asian country. In those tournaments, they have won six games, drawn nine, and lost nineteen games. Despite not winning a single game in their first five participation, they are the most successful Asian side in the tournament as they went to the semi-finals of the tournament in 2002 which was the last world cup hosted in Asia. Maybe, Who knows? They might repeat it this time as well.

The Korean team's celebrating after scoring a goal.
South Korean team of the 2002 World Cup.

South Korea is in a group with Portugal and Uruguay. Ghana is also present in group H. South Korea might be the only Asian nation in this world cup that has a side weaker than them. If South Korea manages to beat Ghana then they need a point to qualify for the knockouts which they can get by drawing Portugal or Uruguay which they are properly capable of. Bookies have set them at Asia’s highest odd of +255. 

Of all the teams, it seems like Qatar and South Korea can qualify for the knockout when we compare their squad and their group. Saudi seems to have the worst finish among the Asian side and might end with 0 points as well. Iran’s qualification depends on their opponent’s form as their squad is not that strong. Japan can qualify as well but their group doesn’t do any favors to them like others.

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