World Cup Qualifying

First Round Concludes as Teams Advance in AFC Qualifiers

The lineup for the second round of AFC qualifiers has been completed after a round of games this week secured which sides are set to advance.

In a qualification tournament which serves both the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, the first round pitted the confederation’s 12 lowest-ranked teams against each other. The winning six have now progressed into a group stage of 40 teams, divided into eight groups of five.

A number of sides managed to turn around first-leg losses on home soil to seal progression. Brunei managed a 2-1 victory over the more fancied Mongolia after losing 1-0 the previous week, and Guam pulled off an emphatic 5-0 victory over Bhutan after also losing 1-0.

Bangladesh and Laos played out a 0-0 draw, meaning that the South Asian side progressed courtesy of the advantage they had from the first leg. Elsewhere, Cambodia responded well to going down a goal against Pakistan and fought back to win 2-1 and secure their place in the second round.

Malaysia’s result was already a foregone conclusion after the first leg ended with a 7-1 victory for the home side. Playing again at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium due to the unsuitability of Timor Leste’s home ground, Malaysia once again turned the screw, winning 5-1 with a hattrick from Shahrel Fikri.

The final game of the round, between Sri Lanka and Macau, was postponed due to security reasons, meaning that the next rounds’ 40th team remains undecided. FIFA and the AFC will now need to decide how to progress and determine a fair way to choose the final team in the next round.