The UAE will find out at the beginning of next month whom they shall face in the third and final round of qualification for the 2022 World Cup. Here’s the lowdown on what’s next on the road to Qatar.
How qualification worked
The oft-postponed second round concluded last week, with 12 teams qualifying for the final stage. Seven of the eight group winners progressed – Syria, Australia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Japan, the UAE, South Korea – alongside the five best runners-up: China, Iraq, Oman, Vietnam, Lebanon. Qatar, who host next year’s World Cup finals, topped Group E, thus opening another runner-up spot (the original quota was four).
The 12 teams will be drawn into two groups of six, where at the moment they are scheduled to play home and away, in round-robin matches. The top two in each group qualify for the World Cup, while the two third-placed teams advance to a single-match play-off. The winner of that will then move on to the intercontinental play-offs, with a final chance to qualify for the finals at stake.
The teams will discover their pathway to Qatar when the draw is made on July 1 in Kuala Lumpur. The seeding for the draw is based on a special release of the Fifa rankings for Asian teams, which was confirmed last Friday. The teams will be divided into six pots, with the top two ranked in Pot 1, the next two teams in Pot 2, and so on. The pot number corresponds to the position the team will be placed in the group.
The seedings (1-12)
4. South Korea
With the UAE placed in Pot 3, it means they will be drawn in a group that includes either Japan or Iran, and either Australia or South Korea.
AFC World Cup qualification has been repeatedly postponed because of the pandemic. Last November, the AFC announced the final round would begin on September 2, 2021 and finish in March 2022. Although there has been speculation that the schedule could be delayed until early next year, given ongoing impact of the pandemic, at present the calendar reads as follows:
• September 2, 2021
• September 7, 2021
• October 7, 2021
• October 12, 2021
• November 11, 2021
• November 16, 2021
• January 27, 2022
• February 1, 2022
• March 24, 2022
• March 29, 2022
The UAE's finals history
The UAE once qualified for a World Cup, in 1990. They reached the third round of Asian qualification for Russia 2018, only to finish fourth in Group B, behind Japan, Saudi Arabia and Australia.