Excitement builds ahead of Wednesday's second round draw
Kuala Lumpur: The roads to Qatar 2022 and China 2023 open up for Asia’s top 40 teams on Wednesday when they discover their opponents in the eagerly anticipated draw for the second round of the Asian Qualifiers.
The attention will be on the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as the 34 nations who earned their places automatically for the second round, will be joined by the six winners from the first round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Joint Qualifiers.
Asia’s five representatives at the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 – Australia, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia as well as AFC Asian Cup reigning champions Qatar have all confirmed their spots in Pot 1 after sealing their places among Asia’s top eight in the June 14, 2019, FIFA World Ranking.
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In the last edition of the Asian Qualifiers, Asia’s emerging sides - India and Yemen -progressed from the first round to the Continent’s ultimate stage in the UAE earlier this year.
Hoping to emulate their success in this edition are Mongolia who qualified for the second round for the first time in their history.
Likewise, Sri Lanka, who last competed in the second round in 2004 as well as Indonesia and Nepal, who return after nearly eight years, will also be eyeing a similar inspiring run against some of Asia’s powerhouses.
AFC General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John said: “The last edition of the qualifying tournament was a resounding success in closing the gap between our Inspiring, Developing and Aspiring nations and also in raising the standards of Asian football.
“The Asian Qualifiers are more inclusive and present our teams with even more opportunities to experience top-level competition than ever before.
“Not only did Asia’s top five teams create history at the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 with our best-ever performance in the group stage but the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 also showcased the incredible progress of our emerging nations as fan engagement on digital media and on television surpassed all expectations.
“The focus of world football for the next few years is clearly on Asia and I am confident that our teams will again produce a thrilling and memorable campaign.”
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