AFC – KUALA LUMPUR, With the Islamic Republic of Iran securing the first of Asia’s 2018 FIFA World Cup spots in June, things are heating up for the remaining three automatic places at the finals in Russia next summer when the 12 teams return to action this week for the penultimate round of fixtures.
Iran may have confirmed their place at Russia 2018 after beating Uzbekistan in Tehran on Matchday Eight, but Carlos Queiroz’s unbeaten side will be anything but easy opponents for second placed Korea Republic in Seoul on Thursday.
However, should the Koreans go on to win, and Uzbekistan fail to get at least a point from their match with China in Wuhan, Shin Tae-yong’s side will qualify from Group A as the second placed side and thus avoid a winners-take-all showdown in Tashkent on Matchday 10.
Fourth-placed Syria are four points behind Korea, and three off Uzbekistan, but they have not yet lost a game at their designated home venue in Malaysia and recently recalled powerhouse forward Omar Al Soma to the side for the upcoming match against Qatar.
While Qatar and China are no longer in the equation for automatic places in the World Cup, they still have a slim chance at third place and a route through the play-offs, but they must record victories on Thursday.
Korea Republic v IR Iran
Venue: Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul
Kick-off: August 31, 21:00 UTC+9:00
Syria v Qatar
Venue: Hang Jebat Stadium, Melaka
Kick-off: August 31, 20:00 UTC+8
China v Uzbekistan
Venue: Wuhan Sports Centre Stadium, Wuhan City
Kick-off: August 31, 20:00 UTC+7