Who is still a chance of progressing in the Asian WCQ heading into the final day?

Having started back in November, the second round of Asian qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup comes to a conclusion on Tuesday.

With the Asian Football Confederation now guaranteed eight spots in the expanded 48-team World Cup, the third round of Asian qualifiers will also see an increase to 18 hopefuls from the previous 12.

Even with one game still to play in the second round, 13 teams are already through: Qatar, Japan, South Korea, Oman, Iran, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Australia and Palestine.

With five places still up for grabs, who are the teams still in the running to keep their World Cup dream alive?

We take a closer look at each of the groups ahead of Tuesday’s action.


Qualified: Qatar
Still in the running: India, Afghanistan, Kuwait

The only group where no team has been eliminated yet, it may appear that India are in pole position given they sit in second spot — but the fact that they will be up against the mighty Qatar means things are not looking good for them.

The most plausible scenario that sees them progress will be if they can somehow pull off a draw in Al Rayyan while the other game also ends in a stalemate, ensuring they remain ahead of Afghanistan and Kuwait on goal difference and a solitary point respectively.

In truth, the second qualifying berth looks more likely to go to whoever emerges victorious in that Afghanistan-Kuwait clash, with a point also enough for the former provided the Indians do lose to Qatar as expected.


Qualified: Japan
Still in the running: Syria, North Korea
Eliminated: Myanmar

Having reached the third round of Asian qualifiers in the previous two editions, Syria could have already secured a repeat of the feat only to lose to North Korea in injury-time last Thursday.

It means that both teams can still advance and the advantage is now arguably with the North Koreans given they will take on already-eliminated Myanmar in their Group B finale while Syria have to visit Japan, who have are unlikely to take it easy even if top spot has already been sewn up — also boasting a record of 19 goals scored and none conceded from five straight wins so far.


Qualified: South Korea
Still in the running: China, Thailand
Eliminated: Singapore

With South Korea sealing qualification — and top spot in Group C – last Thursday while also eliminating Singapore in the process, it will now be either China or Thailand who advances on Tuesday.

Despite being underdogs, the Thais were on track to upset China until they were pegged back by a 79th-minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw.

A win over Singapore coupled with a China loss at the hands of South Korea would see them finish the second round level on points, with Thailand currently having goal-difference deficit of three to overturn should that eventuate.


Qualified: Oman
Still in the running: Krygyz Republic, Malaysia
Eliminated: Chinese Taipei

After Malaysia began the campaign with two consecutive victories, subsequent back-to-back losses to Oman followed by a draw with Kyrgyz Republic sees them three points off second place.

They will be confident in their prospects of seeing off Chinese Taipei but their fate is ultimately out of their hands.

They will need Oman to do them a favour by claiming a commanding-enough victory with a goal-difference turnaround needs, and it is also worth noting that Kyrgyz Republic did emerge victorious over the Group D winners in their earlier encounter.


Qualified: Iran, Uzbekistan
Eliminated: Turkmenistan, Hong Kong

In what proved to be a mismatched group, Iran and Uzbekistan had already booked their spots in the next round as early as back in March with Turkmenistan and Hong Kong failing to offer too much resistance.

It will still be interesting to see which of Iran and Uzbekistan finish top given they are currently level on 13 points, while there will also be a stronger seeding in the Asian Cup qualifiers for Turkmenistan and Hong Kong to battle for on Tuesday.


Qualified: Iraq
Still in the running: Indonesia, Vietnam
Eliminated: Philippines

With Iraq duly delivering on what was originally expected of them by finishing top of Group F, the more intriguing prospect was always which Southeast Asian prospect would be joining them in moving on to the third round.

After Thursday, Philippines are now out of the reckoning — leaving Indonesia and Vietnam duelling for second spot.

While they did remarkably well to be the only Southeast Asian outfit to reach the stage last time out, Vietnam are at real risk of missing out given they sit outside the top two by a point — meaning they will need a result in a formidable test against the Iraqis while Indonesia will have a more straightforward task at home to Philippines.


Qualified: Saudi Arabia, Jordan
Eliminated: Tajikistan, Pakistan

Having secured their third-round berth back in March, Saudi Arabia have now been joined from Group G after a 3-0 win over Tajikistan last Thursday.

Jordan’s progress continues a fine year for them after they had a dream run to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup final, while Tajikistan will now follow Pakistan in turning their focus to qualifying the continental tournament that will next take place in 2027.


Qualified: United Arab Emirates, Bahrain
Eliminated: Yemen, Nepal

Another affair that ultimately offered little surprise, it is United Arab Emirates and Bahrain who are comfortably through to the third round with Yemen and Nepal eliminated.


Qualified: Australia, Palestine
Eliminated: Lebanon, Bangladesh

In what is arguably the biggest surprise — and disappointment, from their perspective — of the second round, Lebanon, who reached the third stage in two of the past three editions, have been eliminated after a 0-0 draw with Palestine last week.

Instead, it is Palestine who advance along with Australia, who had already sealed their progress ahead of the current international window.

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