Some of you may remember that last week, I published this post about World Cup and Asian Cup qualification for the Asian Football Confederation.
After the first round was nearly completed overnight (with the exception of the 2nd leg of Pakistan vs Yemen, which was postponed due to violence in Lahore), I wanted to update my fantasy groups.
The rankings have been updated since then as well, so I kept the seedings but not the countries. To be honest, the biggest impact was down the bottom of the AFC rankings and there will be another set of rankings before the official groups are announced, so this is just me having some fun with the whole thing.
Anyway, let’s go ahead with it.
Group A – A1, B5, C7, D8, E1 = Iran, Qatar, Lebanon, Bangladesh and Guam
Not a big change here, apart from me not being able to see these teams play. I’m still picking Iran and Qatar to automatically qualify from this group. Guam should be one of the better last placed finishers.
Group B – A3, B3, C3, D2, E6 = South Korea, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and East Timor (Timor-Leste)
I can see a few Australian football tragics heading up to Dili for Timor-Leste vs South Korea, or any of the Timor-Leste fixtures. This is a brutal group for Timor-Leste, having had to qualify against Mongolia to get into this stage. If they get a single win in this group, I think they can be happy. South Korea and Jordan will automatically qualify.
Group C – A4, B6, C2, D7, E4 = Australia, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, India
This group totally turned around for me and the expats in the Pearl River Delta. I can see a HUGE travelling group heading to Hong Kong for this fixture and I’d even look at heading over to India, depending on where and what date. HOWEVER, a date with Kuwait could be nasty, given the tension between the head of the Kuwaiti FA and Australian football. I’m assuming that IF Australia plays its away leg against Afghanistan in Afghanistan, it would be played at Ghazi Stadium in Kabul, which is an artificial surface. Australia to qualify, India to be a better bottom finisher.
Group D – A7, B1, C5, D5, E5 = China PR, Iraq, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia
Now this group turned from great to epic. China and Iraq will play two excellent games (and if I can get to the China vs Iraq game in China, I am going to go to it). Thailand, Malaysia and Cambodia should play some excellent fixtures considering that is a local derby in its own right. China and Iraq to qualify automatically, all other teams to go through to the next stage of Asian Cup qualifying.
Group E – A2, B7, C6, D1, E3 = Japan, the Philippines, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Yemen
This group is a really dull group in my head. The most interesting matches for me could be between Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan (the Stan Derby). For the record, the second leg between Pakistan and Yemen was abandoned so the first leg (a 3-1 win to Yemen) stood. Japan to automatically qualify.
Group F – A8, B4, C1, D3, E7 = Oman, Bahrain, Maldives, Myanmar and Chinese Taipei
I thought the previous group was boring but this one is just as bad. Having said that, the Maldives could spring a surprise and finish second in the group but I doubt it. Oman to automatically qualify.
Group G – A6, B2, C8, D6, E8 = Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Indonesia and Bhutan.
Well, if any put money on my advice of Sri Lanka qualifying the second stage of qualifying ahead of Bhutan, I’m really sorry – but what a fantastic result of Bhutan. I’ve seen some fantastic photos and videos online of their goal celebrations. It is the first time that the lowest ranked team in the world has ever gotten to the next stage of World Cup qualification. Incidentally, if anyone wants to buy me one of their kits, I would happily accept it – contact me.
On a side note for this group, Bhutan will probably be the whipping boys of the group, much like Timor Leste. Like Timor Leste, a win in any game will be a success. Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia will automatically qualify, Bhutan to be one of the lowest bottom placed teams.
Group H – A5, B8, C4, D4, E2 = United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, Tajikistan, Singapore and Laos.
With Vietnam’s move up the rankings, this group became a little bit more interesting. Vietnam would be overreaching enormously if they skipped Asian Cup qualification and made World Cup qualification. With that in mind, United Arab Emirates will automatically qualify.
With my fantasy pools, ahead of the final rankings that will be used, I anticipate that the following nations will be the 12 that go to the World Cup qualification and automatically qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.
- From Group A: Iran and Qatar
- From Group B: South Korea and Jordan
- From Group C: Australia
- From Group D:China and Iraq
- From Group E: Japan
- From Group F: Oman
- From Group G: Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia
- From Group H: United Arab Emirates (hosts of AFC Asian Cup 2019)
If there is interest, I will project the likely groups for the Asian Cup groups that would follow – please let me know in the comments, FB, Twitter, etc.