AFC World Cup qualifying review - Group B

We have just trundled over the half way point of Asian World Cup qualifying, where the teams who played in their opening group matches, have just completed their return leg game. So we have decided to steal Johnny Duerden's idea where he reviewed a handful of the 'top Asian sides' performances. We have went next level, and decided to review the whole bastard lot. Hardcore! This instalment will cover group A of Asian World Cup qualifiers. 

Australia - A

Australia have had virtually no problems in sweeping aside a group that they were expected to.  Coming up against Kuwait, Jordan, Taiwan and Nepal, Australia were expected to be cruising in the group at this midway point and that is where they find themselves. So far the Aussies have racked up 16 goals, only conceding 1. (which I was lucky enough to witness..I say say header...bullet! header!)

In Jamie Maclaren (Melbourne City) and Adam Taggart (Suwon Samsung Bluewings) Australia have them two strikers who will have no issue in scoring in every single game agains tthe teams they will come up against at this level.

They also brought in giant centre back Harry Soutar for this qualifying campaign and his has proven to be lethal against the teams from the lower echelons of the World Rankings. Because of his height and aerial prowess, Taiwan and Nepal have found especially difficult to defend against him, that being said both countries only have semi-professional leagues and he turned at the speed of a carthorse. So yeah he might be a giant but when he gets through to the final round then he has the chance of becoming more exposed against higher level attackers. It is amusing seeing Aussie fans laud him as some kind of goal scoring machine mind, but I could also be wrong, and he may well up his game against better opposition.

Australia so far have only really found the Jordan game in Amman as any kind of test, and they managed to come away from that with a 1-0 victory. Right now the Aussies are where they would expect themselves to be, they have been efficient when needed, they have been ruthless when they've had the chance to be, and if they can take that into the final qualifying round then even though the quality rises a great deal, I think Australia will still find themselves on a plain to Qatar for the World Cup in 2022.

Jordan B

Jordan would have been graded an A, if not for that 0-0 home draw against Kuwait which could possibly put them into a sticky situation. As Jordan now need to go to Kuwait and get something, you would expect it to be that way. Both teams are on level points in the group, but Kuwait hold the second spot based on goal difference.

Kuwait took Taiwan apart in Kuwait city winning the game 9-0, to rack up their goal difference, but 4 days later Jordan only managed to score 5. That was slightly better news where Taiwan are concerned but as second spot in the group is now realistically a two way fight between Jordan and Kuwait, I feel like Jordan will be disappointed that they didn't rack up more goals against Taiwan.

On the flip side, Kuwait only went to Nepal (the match was actually played in Bhutan because Nepal's stadium is still not complete) and only got a 1-0 win. Therefore, Jordan could run up the goals against Nepal if need be, and theoretically that would help them claw back their goal difference, but so far Nepal haven't been playing as much open football as Taiwan have so it could prove to be a more difficult task at this point.

Jordan need to keep matching Kuwait's results, and hope that they can catch their goal difference too, because there is nothing worse than being eliminated on some kind of factor like goals scored or something. Jordan are going to find it tough now to get that second spot.

Taiwan - D

Taiwan are officially the third ranked side in this group, and at this point, it is probably where we accept that Gary White expertly schooled the World Rankings during his time in charge of the Taiwanese national side.

The teams he got Taiwan playing against were either equal to Taiwan's rankings, only slightly higher, or slightly lower. This effectively meant that Taiwan would get enough points to nudge themselves up the rankings, and then in theory, find themselves with an easier qualifying draw than they would have had as a lower seed.

Since Louis Lancaster gained the full managers role after being Gary White's assistant, he has put his own stamp on the team. The performances and the style of play has been good, but at times they haven't had luck on their side, the plan just didn't go the way it was supposed to, or they've just played badly and got what they deserved.

Basically the performances that got Taiwan the good results and improved rankings are still in place, the plat is similar, but the teams they have come up against are more difficult in general than the teams Gary White managed Taiwan against.

And that fact alone has made it look like Taiwan are doing terribly, points and stats wise you can make that argument, but there is so much good work going on behind the scenes with all the people in charge of the team now, that things can only get better over time if these guys are kept in place. It takes time though, and results are not instant. Will time be given? If so, then Taiwan will get their rewards in the future, but they have to keep their heads and stick on the right path.

Navigate away from that path, and return to wanting instant success and they won't just slowly slip down a bit, they will start to descend like a lead balloon, because even though everyone wants instant success, the reality of the matter is that in most situations instant success is not an option but more a pipe dream.

Taiwan now need to turn their focus onto not also being eliminated from the Asian Cup before the qualifying even begins because that would turn the World Cup from so far not being very good (especially the Nepal game) to an outright disaster.

Optimism was there at the start of the campaign that Taiwan could make a fist of qualifying for the Asian Cup, at the very least qualify for the Asian Cup qualifying. Right now they will need to face a playoff to get into the Asian Cup.

If they miss out on qualifying, they can always turn around and say bollocks to China anyway, we never wanted our first tournament participation to be there. That can always be the back up plan, and Taiwan should stay positive and keep fighting but things aren't looking good so far. Asian Cup qualifying is a must to make sure there will be competitive football on the island. On a side note, every team has a bogey side they don't like facing, and Nepal looks like it could be Taiwan's.

Kuwait - A

Kuwait's two big wins against Nepal (7-0) and Taiwan (9-0) has seen them jump past Jordan and find themselves in pole position to get that much coveted second spot. The added bonus their goal difference gives them is that teams in more difficult groups don't have that. Therefore when it comes to adding up who are the best 4 teams, then the goal difference will basically act as another point pretty much as is often said in football language.

The main aim for Kuwait is to beat the teams they're expected to and just not lose to Jordan and they will find themselves with one foot in the second round. Kuwait were supposed to be the fourth seed in this group, and I was hoping they would play like they're the fourth seed too, but what people told me on Twitter has proved to be prophetic.

Kuwait only found themselves as fourth seeds due to being banned from Fifa for x amount of years, now they are back but haven't played any official Fifa matches, which then makes their official ranking become lower. It doesn't mean their team suddenly go, shit Ali, Fifa said we're crap so we need to play crap.

Often being banned and getting knocked down the rankings can have a positive on teams, especially in Asia and especially if they were one of the stronger nations. The only downside is the draw seeding, but a lot of Asian Nations are still very weak when it comes to footy and in drawing Jordan, Kuwait have managed to pull a team out the hat that seem to have the similar traits as they do. Beat on the little kids, but get bashed around by the fast track bully.

I believe goal difference will help Kuwait get to the second round now though, and that would be mean Asian participant Jordan will be sat on their arse twiddling their thumbs while the third round is being played.  

Nepal - C

Nepal currently find themselves in fourth spot of their World Cup qualifying group. The reason for that was the 2-0 victory for them away in Taipei. During that match Nepal only really managed two clear shots on target and both found the back of the net. As everyone the world over knows though, to win you need to find the back of the net, and Nepal seemed to have fellas who were capable of that in Taipei.

Since then Nepal have found it tough to find a win, and so far haven't even managed to play one home match in Nepal because of their stadium issues. Their only stadium was damaged in an Earthquake and has since not been repaired.

This forced Nepal to play their match against Kuwait in Bhutan. A match Kuwait lost 1-0, but their players said that they struggled with the altitude, so by keeping the game in Bhutan, it means that Nepal have managed to keep altitude on their side, by having it played by the Himalayas.

They could probably count on having some Nepalese support there too, as Nepal citizens are excluded from paying the extravagantly high tourist tax that is needed to pay every day you're staying in Bhutan.

Nepal vs Taiwan, in whichever country it takes place is going to be vital for these sides.  It does look like both nations are going to have to battle it out in the Asian Cup qualifying playoffs for the right to even have the chance of qualifying for the Asian Cup.

Sides who fail in the Asian Cup qualifying get to play in the Solidarity Cup, which is an 8 team tournament but there is no chance of qualifying for anything if you win it, and it is pretty much a friendly tournament. It is better for the development of teams to play in the qualifying, and Taiwan and Nepal are facing a battle to be in the mix when the draw takes place for that.

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