Tuesday 29 March 2022, 21:00

UAE book Australia play-off as Vietnam make history

  • United Arab Emirates booked an Asian play-off against Australia in June

  • Winners will face Peru, Colombia or Chile for a Qatar 2022 ticket

  • Vietnam produced one of the greatest results in their history away to Japan

The four automatic flights to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ had been booked. Only one thing mattered on the final day of the third round of Asian qualifying: who would win the three-nation fight to face Australia in June’s AFC play-off, a tunnel from which the victors will stride into the intercontinental play-offs. United Arab Emirates had destiny in their own hands, but with Korea Republic providing the opposition, the consensus was that they’d be relying on favours from elsewhere. By contrast, 19-year-old Hareb Abdullah, on his first international start, bagged a golazo to outshine English Premier League stars Son Heungmin and Hwang Heechan. The fact that UAE ultimately received those gifts from IR Iran and Syria didn’t take the gloss off one of greatest results in their history. They weren’t the only nation to accomplish that feat thanks to an unlikely, young hero. Nguyen Thanh Binh, 21, scored the goal that snatched them the unlikeliest of draws against Japan.


IR Iran 2-0 Lebanon Syria 1-1 Iraq United Arab Emirates 1-0 Korea Republic Japan 1-1 Vietnam Oman 2-0 China PR Saudi Arabia 1-0 Australia

Final standings

IR Iran1025+11
Korea Republic1023+10
United Arab Emirates10120

Saudi Arabia1023+6
China PR106-10

Up next

Asian play-off 7 June in Doha United Arab Emirates-Australia Intercontinental play-off 13 or 14 June in Doha United Arab Emirates or Australia v South American side for place at Qatar 2022

Group A: Emirati euphoria as Iranian finish first

Lebanon’s failure to win away to Iran meant it was a two-horse race for the second Asian play-off place. Iraq knew that, realistically, they needed victory, but despite relentless pressure, they couldn’t find a winner. It would have proved irrelevant. Abdullah’s goal, and two magnificent Khalid Eisa saves, earned United Arab Emirates a victory that will send them into a clash with Australia, whom they beat in the teams’ last encounter at the Asian Cup 2019, high on confidence. The result also ensured that Team Melli pipped the Taegeuk Warriors to top spot.

Group B: Group B: Saudis finish top amid Vietnamese rapture

The Green Falcons will head to their sixth World Cup uplifted by topping an uber-competitive pool – something that looked highly unlikely going into the final round. A Salem Al-Dawsari penalty sunk Australia, which enabled them to leapfrog Japan, who were stunningly held by Vietnam. The Golden Star Warriors, appearing in the third round of the Asian preliminaries for the first time, can take huge heart from a finish to the campaign in which they beat China and, in an even greater surprise, drew 1-1 in Saitama – results indebted to the reflexes of goalkeeper Tran Nguyen Manh.

The stats

8 Japan hadn’t conceded in the World Cup preliminaries for eight hours and nine minutes until Thanh Binh Nguyen’s shock deadlock-breaker in Saitama. It was the first time a Vietnamese player had scored against the Japanese, with their only previous goal courtesy of Keita Suzuki putting through his own net in the Samurai Blue’s 4-1 win in 2007. 17 Korea Republic were unbeaten in 17 World Cup qualifiers until defeat in Dubai. 32 It's been 32 years since United Arab Emirates appeared in their only World Cup. The last time upcoming Asian play-off adversaries Australia missed out on the competition was in 2002. 35 Thirty-five years after they first played China PR – in a 2-0 defeat in the King’s Cup in 1987 – Oman achieve their first competitive victory in the fixture.

The quotes

“I don’t care what people say – if they are good enough, they are old enough. Anyone who knows me knows that I will always give youngsters chances. [Harib Abdullah] did a great job. He deserves it.” Rodolfo Arruabarrena, United Arab Emirates coach “We made history by reaching this stage, and we achieved historic results against China and Japan towards the end. But the truth is that we want to reach the World Cup and we didn’t do well enough. We must start preparing immediately for 2026.” Park Hang-Seo, Vietnam coach

Asian nations at the World Cup

* Includes 2022

TeamParticipationsBest finish
Korea Republic114th
Japan7Round of 16
IR Iran6Group stage
Saudi Arabia6Round of 16
Australia5Round of 16
Korea DPR2Quarter-finals
Indonesia1Group stage
Israel1Group stage
Kuwait1Group stage
Iraq1Group stage
United Arab Emirates1Group stage
China PR1Group stage
Qatar1Group stage