AFC qualifiers go down to the wire with Chinese win keeping their hopes alive

September 1 – China kept their Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying hopes alive after a 1-0 home win over Uzbekistan in Wuhan. Asian World Cup qualifying is going down to the wire with only Iran and Japan having secured places with a final round of fixtures to be played this weekend.

China will need to win in Doha against Qatar and rely on other results going their way if they are to snatch an unlikely third place in Group A and with it a play-off spot against the third placed team in Group B.

Bottom of the table Qatar have had a disappointing campaign and will be the first World Cup host never to have previously qualified for the finals.

The Qataris lost 3-1 to Syria in World Cup qualifying this week as the Syrians kept alive their own hopes of an emotional qualification for Russia.

Syria play group winners Iran in Tehran in their final group match on Tuesday and will be guaranteed a two-legged play-off against the third-place team in Group B with victory.

But they could yet finish second and qualify directly for next year’s tournament depending on the result of the match between South Korea and Uzbekistan.

South Korea could only manage a goalless draw against 10-man Iran on Thursday and defeat in their final match could see them fail to qualify for the finals for the first time since 1982 should Syria beat Iran.

Meanwhile, in Group B, Japan beat Australia to qualify for their sixth successive World Cup.

Australia, like South Korea, could end up being a big name casualty in qualifying. They are currently in third spot behind Saudi Arabia on goal difference.

The Aussies need to beat Thailand to at least guarantee a play-off spot. If Saudi Arabia beat Japan at home they will likely automatically qualify (depending on goal difference). A Japan and Australia win will see those two teams go through and Saudi Arabia having to go to the play offs.

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