Macau and Mongolia enter first round of World Cup qualifying

The AFC (Asian Football Confederation) format for World Cup Qualifying involves a first round where the lowest ranked teams have to play each other for a chance to enter the group stage. Lose this match and your World Cup journey is over before it has even begun. 

Mongolia and Macau to enter World Cup first round qualifying 

The first round of qualifying in Asia is a do or die game between the lowest ranked sides, win and you move onto the group stage with the chance of facing some of the biggest sides from the region. Lose and that is your World Cup finished for another 4 years, this is the reality for the minnows of the world game in Asia if they find themselves eliminated only one year after the last World Cup was won.

The same two East Asian nations entered at this stage for 2018 World Cup qualifying where both were eliminated. Macau losing 4-1 to Cambodia on aggregate and Mongolia losing 5-1 to Timor-Leste on aggregate. Macau's loss was straightforward but it turned out Mongolia were robbed.

It was found out that Timor-Leste had used 12 players who were ineligible to represent their country, therefore the AFC awarded two 3-0 wins to Mongolia. As Timor-Leste had already advanced tthe o second round and pretty much played most of their matches the AFC didn't reinstate Mongolia.

Which meant in the end, that 6-0 win on paper is meaningless to the Mongolians. Both countries will be hoping for better luck this time around, as playing competitive games is excellent for helping the countries develop. So make no doubt about it, both of them will be hoping for a favourable draw where they will fancy their chances of progression.  

The draw is seeded, it could benefit both countries

If the draw is seeded, then it could benefit both Macau and Mongolia in their quest to navigate the first round, according to the AFC Qualifying page on Wikipedia the six seeded nations would be Malaysia, Cambodia, Macau, Laos, Bhutan and Mongolia. That would mean the six unseeded nations would be: Guam, Bangladesh, Brunei, Timor-Leste, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Timor-Leste has been banned from competing in AFC competitions as a punishment for fielding the ineligible players, but as FIFA have not copied the AFC and banned them, they are therefore allowed to still participate in World Cup qualifying.

When you get this low in FIFA's world rankings, any side could potentially beat anyone as the level of the teams tends to often be similar. This is how we saw Bhutan qualify for the second round last time, by beating Sri Lanka 3-1 over two legs.

Malaysia and Cambodia look to be the stand out teams in the first round, and it wouldn't shock me if the others wanted to avoid those two. Anyone can beat anyone, but those look to be the only ones considered to be nailed on certs to qualify for the next round. Macau and Mongolia will be hoping they avoid the South East Asian pair, but every side is down at the bottom of the rankings for a reason - because their form has been terrible, so they should go into the matches against any side involved in the first round believing they can get through. We will be cheering on both Macau and Mongolia on the challenge they have facing them in gainin the second round qualification.

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