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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

Explainer: How the UAE can still qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia

Victory over Saudi Arabia has left the UAE with hope still of finishing in the top two or three places in Group B of the AFC qualifying section with one game to go.

The UAE's Ali Mabkhout and Saudi Arabia's Abdulmalek Al Khaibri tussle for the ball during Tuesday's World Cup 2018 qualifier. The UAE are still in with a chance of usurping both Saudi and Australia and getting automatic qualification for the World Cup finals in Russia. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The UAE's Ali Mabkhout and Saudi Arabia's Abdulmalek Al Khaibri tussle for the ball during Tuesday's World Cup 2018 qualifier. The UAE are still in with a chance of usurping both Saudi and Australia and getting automatic qualification for the World Cup finals in Russia. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Sitting fourth in Group B, the UAE must win their final fixture on Tuesday against Iraq in Jordan to stand any chance of making the World Cup finals in Russia next summer.

At present, they could still usurp third-placed Australia and second-placed Saudi Arabia in Group B of the AFC qualification section, but would need both teams to lose their remaining matches, and a big swing in goal difference for that to happen.

A 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in Al Ain kept their hopes alive.

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Australia's 2-0 loss to Japan on Thursday, a result that guaranteed Japan top spot in Group B and a place at the finals in Russia, kept the UAE's slim hopes alive. The result also helped Saudi Arabia, who climbed to the second qualifying spot thanks to a superior goal difference over Australia.

Saudi, Australia and UAE can now all still claim second place going into the final round of games on Tuesday, with Saudi and Australia both on 16 points and UAE on 13.

For UAE to take second place they must beat Iraq, hope Saudi lose at home to Japan and Australia are beaten on home turf by Thailand. They also need a nine-goal swing over Saudi and seven over Australia to allow them to finish ahead of both sides on goal difference.

Australia are first in action on Tuesday against Thailand in Melbourne, the game starting at 2pm UAE time.

The UAE then take on Iraq in Amman, Jordan, starting at 6pm. If Australia either win or draw then that will end the UAE's chances of qualifying automatically, but they can still put the pressure on Saudi Arabia by winning is emphatically as possible.

Saudi then take on the group winners Japan at 9.30pm in Jeddah, knowing that if they win and Australia do not improve their goal difference by more than four compared to their own they will be heading to the World Cup finals for the first time since 2006.

The UAE's hopes hang on winning heavily against Iraq and hoping either Thailand can shock Australia, or Japan can beat Saudi Arabia, despire the tie being effectively a dead-rubber for Japan.

If the UAE can finish ahead of only one of those teams, hopes are not lost as the third-placed side enters the play-offs, which is another route to Russia.

The third-placed side in Group B of the AFC qualifying competition will take on the third-placed side in Group A, currently Uzbekistan.

The winner of that two-legged tie, played in October, will play against the fourth-placed side from the Concacaf qualification group in November, with that side at present being Panama.

The victor of that two-legged encounter will then head to Russia.

The permutations for UAE going to the 2018 World Cup finals

To qualify automatically

UAE must beat Iraq.

Australia must lose in Japan and at home to Thailand, with their losing margins and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

Saudi Arabia must lose to Japan, with their losing margin and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

 

To finish third and go into a play-off with the other third-placed AFC side for a chance to reach the inter-confederation play-off match

UAE must beat Iraq.

Saudi Arabia must lose to Japan, with their losing margin and the UAE's winning margin over Iraq being enough to overturn a goal difference gap of eight.

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