A quartet of miserable performing sides means very few Asian sides can feel even close to certain about their slots in Russia after Tuesday’s fourth match day.
Thailand, Iraq, and Qatar have failed to find a single point through three matches, while China is barely better thanks to a home draw with Iran.
We could see some separation from the pack at the top end and some lifelines at the bottom come Tuesday, however. No less than three matches pit teams with six or seven points.
[ MORE: $225 million offer for Neymar? ]
The day begins with the probable best of the bunch. Ageless Tim Cahill and Australia dropped their first points of qualifying in Thursday’s draw in Saudi Arabia, and now host Japan in Melbourne. The Samurai Blue has rebounded from an opening day upset at home to UAE, but those were expected wins against Thailand and Iraq. Australia is a different story.
No players have scored more in qualifying than UAE‘s Ahmed Khalil and Saudi Arabia‘s Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, with 14 goals each. Both will aim to go atop Group B, hopeful of an Australia loss or tie.
Over in Group A, things are only a little less congested between the Top Four. World Cup veteran sides Iran and South Korea will tangle. The hosting Taegeuk Warriors have yet to lose in qualifying and the same can be said for Team Melli. Should be a fun one.
As for the lifelines, Iraq hosts Thailand and a loser would be a minimum of six points adrift of even a World Cup playoff spot. Qatar needs to hold serve against a Syria side which could sneak into the Group A discussion with a road win.
Australia vs. Japan — 5 a.m. ET
Iraq vs. Thailand — 8:30 a.m. ET
Uzbekistan vs. China — 9 a.m. ET
Iran vs. South Korea — 10:45 a.m. ET
Qatar vs. Syria — Noon ET
Saudi Arabia vs. UAE — 1:45 p.m. ET