After analysing the European giants and their chances at the upcoming World Cup, it’s now time to shift the attention to a more humble continent, Asia.
They don’t have the same quality as European or South American nations, to be honest, but they still have enough about them to spring a surprise or two.
Here, we take a brief look at the five Asian teams that have qualified for the Russia World Cup.
5. Australia – Group C
Australia have successfully managed to qualify for their fourth consecutive World Cup albeit battling against a number of steep challenges. They played 22 qualifying games in total, overcoming Syria (Asian playoffs) and Honduras (combined playoffs).
They’ll contest in Group C alongside France, Denmark and Peru, teams far superior to them, both as per their FIFA rankings as well as by personnel.
The Socceroos appointed Bert van Marwijk to replace Ange Postecoglou and would look to play a more pragmatic brand of football. 37-year-old Tim Cahill still is their main man and must step up once again if they are to advance to the knockouts.
4. Saudi Arabia – Group A
Qualifying for the World Cup hasn’t been smooth sailing for Saudi Arabia. They swapped two coaches – Bert van Marwijk and Edgardo Bauza, en route to Russia and will now count on Juan Antonio Pizzi to make a mark in the tournament.
They have been pitted in group A alongside Russia, Uruguay and Egypt and have a windy road ahead. They have enough quality to get the better of Russia but qualifying ahead of Egypt will be a big ask.
However, with a little bit of luck and Mohammad Al-Sahlawi in full flow they might just pull off a surprise.
3. Iran – Group B
Iran became the first Asian team to secure World Cup qualification when they beat Uzbekistan 2-0 back in June 2017. They were unbeaten across 18 qualifying fixtures over two rounds, giving a proper glimpse of how keen they are to make their mark.
In Russia, Iran will make their fifth World Cup appearance, but they haven’t registered a victory since the 2-1 win over the USA in 1998. 22-year-old Sardar Azmoun will be their main threat going forward. And with a resilient team backing him, Iran might just pull off something spectacular in a tough group where they are pitted against Spain, Portugal and Morocco.
2. Japan – Group H
Japan have become one of the most consistent Asian sides in the tournament over the last few iterations. They have managed to reach the group stages twice in their history, including in 2002 when they jointly hosted the tournament alongside South Korea.
They may not have the firepower some of the other sides possess, but they sure have plenty of experienced players in their ranks. Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund and Shinji Okazaki of Leicester City must step up to the plate if they are to have a chance of progressing from Group H – consisting of Colombia, Poland and Senegal.
1. South Korea – Group F
No Asian team is better equipped to handle the pressure of a tournament as grand as this than South Korea. The draw against Uzbekistan made sure they took their number of World Cup appearances to double figures.
Every World Cup since 1986 has featured the Taegeuk Warriors, and more often than not, they have managed to punch above their weight.
This time they’ll have to fight against Germany, Mexico and Sweden for a place in the round-of-16, and their fantastic Premier League trio of Tottenham’s Son Heung-min, Swansea’s Ki Sung-yeung and Crystal Palace’s Lee Chung-yong will be key to their chances.