Warning for Japan as Asian heavyweights begin World Cup qualifying

Qualifying campaigns for the 2026 World Cup are set to begin on Thursday as Japan, Australia, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s South Korea, along with Palestine and 36 other teams, kick off their journey in Asia.

The expanded World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico offers a record eight direct spots and one intercontinental playoff berth for Asian Football Confederation sides.

Teams in the AFC will compete in nine groups of four, playing each other home and away. The top two from each group will advance to the final qualifying round.

Japan, on the back of a phenomenal run of form, is expected to secure their place at an eighth straight World Cup. The Blue Samurai have won their last six games, scoring 24 goals and conceding just five. They begin their campaign against Myanmar in Osaka, admitting it won’t be an easy feat despite a previous 10-0 thrashing of Myanmar in the 2022 World Cup qualifying.

South Korea, under the leadership of German legend Klinsmann, also begins their qualifying campaign with newfound momentum after securing friendly wins. China and Thailand are drawn in what seems to be a tough group of the qualifiers.

Australia, fresh off reaching the World Cup last 16 in Qatar, starts their campaign against Bangladesh in Melbourne. Coach Graham Arnold emphasized the importance of getting tactics and players’ performance right, as they aim for a spot in both the World Cup and the Asian Cup in Qatar.

The first match day will be followed by the second on November 21 in Asia, with teams like Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar also gearing up for their qualifying matches.

Excitement and anticipation are high as teams across Asia make their bid to secure a coveted spot in the 2026 World Cup, making this qualifying campaign a thrilling and unpredictable journey.


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