July 24, 2024
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Tehran Times – KUALA LUMPUR, The Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027 has concluded, revealing the 18 teams that advanced to the final stage.

Iran, alongside powerhouses Japan and South Korea, find themselves in the top seedings for the crucial third round draw. Australia, Qatar, and Iraq occupy the second pot, while Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Jordan sit in the third. The remaining teams are distributed across three more pots based on their FIFA rankings.

*Group stage format and path to the World Cup

The final round will feature three groups of six teams, with the top two teams from each group automatically qualifying for the 2026 World Cup. The third-place finishers from each group will then be divided into two playoff groups, where the winners will secure the remaining two direct berths. The remaining two third-place teams will face each other in an intercontinental playoff to determine Asia’s final representative at the World Cup.

*Potential scenarios for Iran

Iran could face a challenging group if draw with Australia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, and North Korea. This scenario would make direct qualification a daunting task for Team Melli. Other potentially difficult draws include pairings with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, China, and North Korea, or Australia, Uzbekistan, UAE, China, and Kuwait.

On the other hand, Iran could also land a favorable group with Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Kyrgyzstan, and Indonesia. This scenario would significantly increase Iran’s chances of securing a direct qualification spot. Other potentially easier draws include pairings with Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, Palestine, and Indonesia, or Iraq, Jordan, UAE, Kyrgyzstan, and Indonesia.

The draw for the third round of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers will be conducted at the AFC House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on June 27.

Team Melli face 10 crucial matches in this stage, each one holding the potential to shape their World Cup aspirations. The stakes are high, and the pressure is on as Amir Ghalenoei’s side embark on this decisive phase of the qualification journey.