AFC World Cup qualifying has been on hiatus since March as the FIFA calendar takes an extended break to allow club teams to wrap up all competitions. With the end of the club season fast approaching, it certainly is not too early to turn our focus to the international scene.
First, let’s take a look back at the two games that were played in March and refresh our memories of where the teams currently sit and how they got there. Uzbekistan played host to bottom feeders Lebanon in Tashkent, and a single strike was enough to earn them 3 points. They immediately went top of the group on 11 points and put tons of pressure on Korea Republic to keep pace.
Korea Republic were hosts to Qatar in Seoul minutes after Uzbekistan and Lebanon went final. Korea Republic would strike first in the 60th minute. However, that lead was short lived as Qatar leveled within 3 minutes to bring the score back to 1 all. Things were looking bleak for Korea Republic until a 96th minute goal surely secured all 3 points. This was a very harsh defeat for Qatar. A draw would have seen Qatar and Korea Republic level on 8 points. Korea Republic would still have a game in hand and a better goal differential, but Qatar would have jumped Iran and would presently sit in 3rd place. It just wasn’t meant to be.
Here are the current standings in Group A:
|Korea Republic||10||+6||thru 5|
The top 2 teams have a direct passage to Brazil 2014; the 3rd place team will have a home and home play-off with the 3rd place team from Group B to determine the final AFC entrant.
There are only 6 remaining fixtures in this group. Korea Republic and Iran each have 3 games to play, while everyone else is down to 2. This puts Qatar and Lebanon at a disadvantage. They need to make the most of their opportunities and also have some help to have a shot at staying alive.
Let’s take a look at the remaining fixtures and project the group A standings:
June 4th, 2013
Qatar v Iran
Lebanon v Korea Republic
June 11th, 2013
Korea Republic v Uzbekistan
Iran v Lebanon
June 18th, 2013
Korea Republic v Iran
Uzbekistan v Qatar
If you are unaware, We Global Football has developed a scenario simulator called xCRO. The object of this simulator is to take the current standings and, in conjunction with the remaining fixtures, project the probability of possible outcomes. It contemplates everything our predictor feature does except takes it one step further. While some teams may be heavy favorites on paper, there are certainly upsets that can occur. xCRO better allows to project standings in the event an upset does occur. This is far more functional than just predicting the result.
When we put Group A through xCRO, we come up with the following results.
Our simulator favors Korea Republic and Uzbekistan to qualify directly. Korea Republic has a 94% chance and Uzbekistan a 76% chance according to xCRO.
Qatar vs. Iran
Iran and Qatar are not out by any stretch, but certainly are behind the 8-ball here. They are going to be competing for a spot in the playoffs in all likelihood. The June 4th match in Doha between the 2 will be very telling.
Lebanon vs. Korea Republic
Lebanon are extremely close from being officially eliminated from Brazil 2014. It’s mathematically possible for them to stay alive, but any points dropped against Korea Republic will see them off.
Projection: Korea Republic by 2
Standings are projected to look like this through matchday 8:
|Korea Republic||13||thru 6|
Iran vs. Lebanon
Matchday 9 comes only a week later with much more to be determined. Iran would then host eliminated Lebanon in Tehran and will absolutely require 3 points to stay alive. Any points claimed will see them separate themselves from Qatar as this is their game in hand.
Projection: Iran by 2
Korea Republic vs. Uzbekistan
The other match pits the group’s top 2 teams against each other in Seoul. Korea Republic can wrap up their successful qualifying campaign with a win over Uzbekistan. A draw would still allow Iran to catch Korea Republic mathematically, but Korea Republic will still hold a superior goal differential. An Uzbekistan win would absolutely shake the group and would set up a tremendous matchday 10.
Projection: Korea Republic by 1
Standings through matchday 9 would then look like this:
|Korea Republic||16||thru 7||*Qualified|
Uzbekistan vs. Qatar
Still to be determined on matchday 10 will be the final direct qualifier as well as the play-off entrant from group A. Qatar will have a steep climb as they travel to what will surely be a raucous Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The home support will be anxiously awaiting passage to their first ever World Cup finals. Qatar doesn’t stand much of a chance here and will be eliminated.
Projection: Uzbekistan by 2
Korea Republic vs. Iran
The other match between Korea Republic and Iran will be nothing more than a formality. The Qatar loss coupled with an Uzbekistan win will lock Iran into 3rd place and send them into the playoff. Regardless, we’re still expecting Korea Republic to take care of business.
Projection: Korea Republic by 2
You can see that xCRO agrees with these results. Again, anything is certainly possible. The match with most riding on it in my opinion is Qatar v Iran on June 4th. This is Qatar’s best chance to disrupt the projections and sneak into the play-off.
Stay tuned for a Group B projection in the coming days. I hope you enjoyed our projections. As always, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to ensure you stay up to date on all the coming international football action!