The 2022 World Cup, which will be held in Qatar in a few days, will include an unprecedented six Asian teams. Never before in World Cup history have six teams from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) advanced for the World Cup. South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Japan advanced from the AFC World Cup qualifiers, while Qatar had already qualified as the host nation. Australia overcame Peru on penalties in the intercontinental play-off, making it six Asian countries in World Cup 2022.
In many aspects, the 2022 World Cup might start a new era in Asian football. To put things in perspective, the World Cup was first staged in Asia in 2002, when Japan and South Korea hosted it jointly. While the first Asian World Cup placed Asian football on the footballing map, the second Asian World Cup might see Asian football rise again. Here are the Asian teams that have qualified for the 2022 World Cup:
As the World Cup 2022 host, Qatar is keen to put on a show for football fans all around the world, including on the field. Since winning the right to host the tournament in December 2010, the little Gulf nation with a population of less than three million has invested heavily in its national team development. Since getting the right to host the World Cup, the money spent on player development, training, and building new infrastructure has paid off Qatar with a top-50 FIFA World Ranking. It also resulted in the first Asian Cup victory for Qatar in 2019.
Iran will compete in the World Cup for the third time in a row as the top-ranked Asian squad is capable of creating an impression. They qualified for the World Cup 2022 comfortably, winning eight of their last qualification-round games and losing only one. It was enough for them to finish first in their group, beating South Korea, who qualified as runners-up as well. Iran possesses an effective offensive unit with Porto attacker Mehdi Taremi, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and Sardar Azmoun, but their coaching issue has received the majority of attention in the lead-up. Dragan Skocic guided them through qualifying but was ultimately replaced by former Manchester United manager Carlos Querioz after being sacked and supposedly rehired in short succession in July. After leading them to the 2014 World Cup and World Cups 2018, he is currently on his second stint as coach.
South Korea has not yet missed a World Cup since 1982, and Paulo Bento’s squad will be competing in this year’s World Cup too, so the trend will continue. With a spot in the World Cup already secured, South Korea came in second place in a challenging 3rd round qualification group. Bento’s team had a 7 match winning streak before to that, and they will be aiming for a similar rhythm at the World Cup, where they will be attempting to go past the group stage for the 1st time since 2010.
Saudi Arabia has lost the World Cup in the group stages in last 4 appearances, and it is tough to imagine that trend continuing in Qatar. Although Herve Renard’s squad deserves praise for outperforming Australia in qualifying round of the World Cup, there is a sense that things might become much more challenging for them if they are given more challenging task. Every member of the Saudi Arabian team presently competes for their nation, but they also have a coach in Renard who has managed teams from all over the world, including Ivory Coast, Morocco, Zambia, and Angola. Renard will be sorely hoping that striker Saleh Al Shehri can get back to full health and lead Saudi Arabia this time following his four goals in the qualifications after they departed Russia 2018 with only two goals.
The national squad of Japan has never advanced past the Round of 16 in a World Cup, but they will be hoping to have a successful campaign this time around. Their team has a lot of experience, but it also has some promising young players, such as Takefusa Kubo. Additionally, Japan has players with Premier League experience, where Takehiro Tomiyasu of Arsenal and Takumi Minamino of Liverpool will be well-known to many fans worldwide. Japan’s tournament preparations have gone well so far, they defeated Australia’s to automatically qualify in the AFC area. However, it is still unclear how Japan will do while facing higher competition in World Cup.
Australia defeated Peru in a penalty shootout to claim the last spot in Group D in FIFA intercontinental playoff. Just to have the chance to face Peru for a place in the 2022 World Cup, Australia had to win a separate Asian qualifying playoff against the UAE by a score of 2-1 six days earlier.Australia was able to recover a qualifying campaign that had a promising beginning (11 straight victories), but that faltered after losses to Saudi Arabia and Japan ended their chances of automatic qualification and sent them on the playoff routein which they qualified for the 2022 World Cup. Since the turn of the century, Australia have participated in every World Cup, making it to the World Cup 5 times in a row.