AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar™: Stats and Facts
Kuala Lumpur: After a FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign that began in mid-2019 and had to contend with the significant obstacle of COVID-19-related interruptions, Asia’s four automatic qualification spots – joining hosts Qatar – were confirmed after Matchdays Nine and Ten of the AFC Asian Qualifiers™.
The final round of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar was played over just seven months, with the action coming thick and fast and empty stadiums turning into fan-filled venues as the campaign grew deeper.
With Groups A and B having drawn to a close after Tuesday’s final round of fixtures, the-AFC.com looks back at some of the stats and facts that have caught the eye.
Renard eyes big support in Qatar, Arnold calls for Australians to admire Saudi football
Jeddah: Saudi Arabia head coach Herve Renard revelled in the glory of qualifying to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 as Group B leaders as 50,000 fans celebrated following the Green Falcons’ 1-0 win against Australia at King Abdullah Sports City Stadium on Tuesday.
Salem Al Dawsari’s penalty five minutes after the hour-mark brought Saudi Arabia back to the summit of their group of the AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar™ following Japan’s 1-1 home draw against Vietnam earlier on the day.
A sixth appearance at the FIFA World Cup for Saudi Arabia was achieved emphatically with just one defeat along the way, a 2-0 reversal in Japan on Matchday Eight, and the result marked a second consecutive successful qualification for Renard who had led Morocco to Russia 2018.
Hašek concedes IR Iran the better side as Lebanon bow out
Mashhad: Ivan Hašek conceded FIFA World Cup-bound Islamic Republic of Iran are a superior outfit to his Lebanon side, who saw their own AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar™ hopes dashed in a 2-0 defeat on Tuesday.
Goals from Sardar Azmoun and Alireza Jahanbakhsh put paid to the Cedars’ hopes of reaching June’s AFC playoff, although UAE’s later victory over Korea Republic meant even a Lebanese win on the night wouldn’t have helped them pull off the miracle turnaround required to extend their campaign.
While they came into the match at Imam Reza Stadium with full of hope, Lebanon’s defeat meant they slipped to last place in Group A, with their final tally of six points from 10 matches illustrative of a campaign which slipped away in the final two matches.
Victory over Korea Republic just the start, says UAE’s Arruabarrena
Dubai: United Arab Emirates national team head coach Rodolfo Arruabarrena said that his side’s 1-0 win against Korea Republic should be considered a mere starting point on a road which could ultimately lead the West Asian nation to their first FIFA World Cup since 1990.
A second half goal from Harib Abdalla steered Arruebarrena’s side to a much-needed win, securing third place in Group A of the AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar™ and a single-leg AFC playoff against Australia in June.
The winners of the AFC playoff will then meet the fifth placed side from CONMEBOL qualifying for a berth at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
Park hails ‘great’ Vietnam result, Moriyasu looks to the future
Saitama: Park Hang-seo was full of praise for his Vietnam side as they rounded off their AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar™ Group B campaign with a historic 1-1 draw against Japan at Saitama Stadium on Tuesday.
Nguyen Thanh Binh gave the Golden Star Warriors a surprise lead in the 19th minute before Japan equalised through Maya Yoshida nine minutes after the interval but, despite wave after wave of Japanese attacks and two disallowed goals, Vietnam held out for a memorable point.
While the Southeast Asians ultimately finished bottom of the standings in what was their maiden appearance in the final round of AFC Asian Qualifiers, the hard-fought draw was the first time they had avoided defeat against the Samurai Blue and their first point away from home in Group B.
Muscat: Coach Branko Ivankovic praised his team’s performance as Oman completed their commitments in Group B of the AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar™ on a high with a 2-0 win over China PR in Muscat on Tuesday.
Goals from Arshad Al Alawi and Abdullah Fawaz earned the Omanis victory over the Chinese as the West nation confirmed themselves as fourth place finishers in Group B, behind Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia.
The win was Oman’s fourth in 10 games and saw Ivankovic’s side finish just one point behind the third placed Socceroos.
Dubai: Iraq head coach Abdul Ghani Shahad said his team was affected by the early goal they conceded in their 1-1 draw against Syria in their final Group A match of the AFC Asian Qualifiers - Road to Qatar™ on Tuesday.
The result ended Iraq’s hopes of qualification to the FIFA World Cup Finals for the second time in their history after the UAE defeated Korea Republic 1-0 to book the playoff spot from the group.