The UAE's game in Iran tomorrow may be irrelevant for Dominique Bathenay's men, who sit bottom of the group and gave up hope of qualifying for the World Cup several games ago, but for their hosts it is a last chance of winning through to South Africa. Iran's 0-0 draw with North Korea on Saturday was a disappointment for new coach Afshin Ghotbi and they needs two wins, including one away to already qualified South Korea, to have any hope of clinching automatic qualification, or more realistically third place, which will result in a play-off against the third place team in Group A.
Iran lie fourth in Group B with seven points - three points behind gulf giants Saudi Arabia who have rebounded well from a shaky start. They will be hoping for an easy ride tomorrow from a South Korean side who are already through. That, however, is not likely. South Korea's coach, Huh Jung-moo, has admitted he would prefer to have their neighbours North Korea, who are one point ahead of the Saudis in second, join them in South Africa.
"I personally hope that North Korea can qualify with us to the finals," Huh said. "It will be the first time in World Cup history to have this." The last time the North qualified was in 1966 when they famously upset Italy 1-0 and gave Eusebio's Portugal a scare in the quarter-finals - leading 3-0 before eventually going down 5-3. They only have a game against the Saudis in Riyadh to come on June 17.
In Group One, Australia and Japan have already snapped up automatic places, leaving just the play-off spot to play for. Bahrain are in pole position and barring a freak result in another match, a draw in Australia tomorrow should be enough. The Gulf nation have never qualified for the World Cup - they lost in a final play-off against Trinidad and Tobago which would have seen them secure a place at Germany 2006.
A defeat in Sydney would mean third place would be decided at Bahrain's final match with Uzbekistan on June 17, which would effectively make the game a play-off, for a play-off. The match would also be a repeat of the acrimonious play-off for the 2006 finals, which had to be replayed because of poor refereeing. Bahrain could get an easy ride from Australia. "We've got nothing else to play for, we've qualified," said the midfielder Mark Bresciano.
Qatar, fourth on five points, must not only beat Japan in Yokohama tomorrow, but win by a whopping five goals, and hope Bahrain and Uzbekistan lose. * With agencies