S. Korea won’t be top seed in final World Cup qualification round

March 30, 2016
Uli Stielike (Yonhap)

 Despite seven straight shutout wins, Uli Stielike’s side will not get a No. 1 seed in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. 

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korea will not get one of the No. 1 seeds in the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, as their international ranking next month is expected to be lower than their Asian counterparts.

The lineup for the third round of Asian qualifiers was finalized Tuesday as 12 countries have confirmed their spots. South Korea have qualified as the winner of Group G, marking a perfect record of seven wins in the previous round. The national football team has scored 24 goals and conceded none.

For the final round, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will seed the 12 qualifiers based on their latest FIFA rankings that will be announced on April 9. The region’s top two ranked nations will receive the first seeds and will be placed in different groups, and the next two Asian countries in the FIFA rankings will get the second seeds, and so forth.

While Iran, ranked 44th in March, are expected to clinch one of the two first seeds in the final round as the No. 1 Asian country, Japan (56), South Korea (57), Saudi Arabia (60) and Australia (67) were fighting for the remaining top seed.

But after the second round qualifying was completed on Tuesday, FIFA’s ranking points calculator on its website showed Australia are likely to take the remaining first seed as the second-best team among AFC members based on the April rankings.

The FIFA rankings are based on the average points that a team accumulates over a four-year period. The ranking points in each match are determined by its result, its value and the relative strength of the opponent and their confederation. The system also has a yearly basis depreciation for the value of matches.

South Korea have won their two international matches against No. 145 Lebanon in the second round Asian qualifiers and 118th-ranked Thailand in a friendly this month. According to FIFA’s points calculator, South Korea will earn 579 points for its April ranking, up 13 points from March, but Australia have secured 601 points for next month. South Korea will get the second seed in the final round as a result.

South Korea could see a jump in their ranking points as their last second round qualifying match against Kuwait was postponed indefinitely following the Middle East’s sanction by FIFA. Although the match is expected to be forfeited as a 3-0 win for South Korea, the decision has yet to be made by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee.

The FIFA points calculator also showed Japan would be the fourth-best team in Asia and take the second seed after they receive 577 points. This means that South Korea are expected to avoid their archrival Japan in the final round.

Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan are to earn the third seeds, while United Arab Emirates and China, Qatar and Iraq, and Syria and Thailand are to get the fourth to sixth seeds in that order.

The draw for the final round is slated for April 12 in Kuala Lumpur, where 12 countries will be divided into two groups of six. The six teams in each group will play each other on a home and away basis starting in September, with the top two sides from each group booking their place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

The two third-placed teams will face each other over two legs, and the winner will take on the fourth-placed team from the fifth round of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) qualifiers in a two-legged inter-confederation playoff for a chance to book their ticket to the World Cup.


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