Japan to meet North Korea, South Korea face China in World Cup qualifying

Japan to meet North Korea, South Korea face China in World Cup qualifying

Japan, South Korea, and Australia have learned their opponents for the second round of Asia’s qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup. Japan will face North Korea, Syria, and the winners of a playoff between Myanmar and Macau. South Korea’s group includes China, Thailand, and either Singapore or Guam. Australia, who reached the knockout rounds in the 2022 World Cup, will compete in Group I against Palestine, Lebanon, and either the Maldives or Bangladesh.

FIFA’s decision to expand the World Cup to 48 teams means that Asia has been allocated eight guaranteed spots, with a possible ninth spot available through intercontinental playoffs. The top two teams from each of the nine groups will advance to the third preliminary round, where three groups of six teams will compete for World Cup qualification.

In Group A, reigning Asian Cup holders Qatar will face India, Kuwait, and either Afghanistan or Mongolia. Group E features Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Hong Kong or Bhutan. Iraq has been drawn in Group F alongside Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia or Brunei. Saudi Arabia headlines Group G with Jordan, Tajikistan, and Cambodia or Pakistan. The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and either Yemen or Sri Lanka, and Nepal or Laos will compete in Group H.

The first round of Asian World Cup qualifying matches will be played on October 12 and 17. The second round matches will take place from November 2023 to June 2024. The full list of groups and teams can be found in the article.

Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Andrew Cawthorne.

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