The exciting Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, which kicked off in June 2019, will make their return on 25 March. A total of 40 teams remain in the running, all of whom are dreaming of one of the four Asian slots available for the big event. At the moment, the only certainty is that Qatar, as the host of the World Cup, is the only team that has secured its place.
JAPAN AT THE FOREFRONT OF ASIAN SOCCER:
It is no surprise that Japan is one of the major candidates to qualify for the World Cup. The Samurai Blue has been a fairly consistent team over the past few years. In 2019, they were runners-up in the Asian Cup and in 2018 they were the only Asian team to make it out of the group stage of the World Cup in Russia. Currently, they comfortably lead their group in the second round of the qualifiers. They are also ranked 27th in the FIFA rankings, being the highest ranked Asian team.
Other favorites are South Korea and Australia, who have become regular participants in the World Cup; the Asian Tigers have qualified consecutively for the last nine editions, while the Socceroos have been present in the last four. Nor can we forget Iran, who are currently the second highest-ranked Asian team in the FIFA rankings, although Iraq and Bahrain are currently threatening to leave them out of the World Cup.
SON HEUNG-MIN, THE VISIBLE FACE OF ASIA:
Asian soccer has more interesting players than many might think. Currently, the Asian player of the moment is South Korea’s Son Heung-min, who shines in the Premier League as a Tottenham Hotspur star, but this continent has much more to offer. 20-year-old Lee Kang-in is another great promise from South Korea, he has slowly been earning a place at Valencia and his future looks bright. Hwan Hee-chan (RB Leipzig) is another player in whom the South Koreans place their faith.
Japan also has big names such as Takumi Minamino (Southampton), Gaku Shibasaki (Leganés), Maya Yoshida (Sampdoria), Takehiro Tomiyasu (Bologna), Koji Miyoshi (Royal Antwerp) and Hiroki Sakai and Yuto Nagatomo (Olympique Marseille). Australia offers men like Matthew Ryan (Arsenal), Tomas Petar (Celtic) or Matthew Leckie (Hertha BSC). Iran also has good players, such as Serdar Azmoun (Zenit) and Kaveh Rezaei (Charleroi).
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