Drama aplenty as the race to qualify for the 2022 WC in Asia finally resumes [Group C]

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ESPN – HONG KONG, There are only 18 months left before the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

But the nations that will represent Asia is far from set after the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) qualification schedule.

The four rounds of Asian qualifiers were supposed to be completed by November 2021 with the inter-confederation playoffs scheduled for March 2022. With the tournament now being extended until June 2022, the final team from Asia could qualify as late as just five months before the first-ever “winter” World Cup.

Eight group winners and four best runners-up are to advance from this phase of 39 teams after DPR Korea withdrew from the competition. Matches will now be held in centralised venues across the continent with12 teams receiving the bonus of a direct berth in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in China.

As competitive international action returns to Asia this month, here are how things stand in Group C.

Group C: Iran at real risk of missing out on third successive World Cup

After putting on some of the most-memorable displays in recent years by an Asian nation in the main event, Iran’s chances of making it to their third consecutive World Cup hang in the balance after a slow start to their qualification campaign.

Two wins from their opening engagements, including a 14-0 thrashing of Cambodia, meant Iran were expected to coast through the qualifiers. However, back-to-back defeats to Bahrain and Iraq have put their progress in jeopardy.

Iran are currently third in the group with six points and a game in hand — five points behind Iraq, who top the group, and three behind second-placed Bahrain. Marc Wilmots has since left the manager job and it is Croatian coach Dragan Skocic who has the unenviable task of turning around Team Melli’s fortunes in Bahrain next month.

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