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 By John Duerden

Top five matchups in 2018 AFC World Cup final round qualification

South Korea manager Uli Stielike assesses his side's draw in the third round of AFC World Cup Qualifying.

Now that the draw for the 2018 AFC World Cup final qualifying round is out, it is time to take a closer look into which of the region's top players will be up against one another as the games play out.

There will be some fascinating matchups over the coming months, as the best teams on the continent fight it out over the course of 10 games.

Only four Asian nations will be guaranteed World Cup spots, with another two facing more playoffs for a chance to make it to Russia 2018.

The matches begin in...

Thailand's Zico wants good WCQ start against Saudis, wary of Japan trio

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and David Mitchell look ahead to Thailand's upcoming AFC World Cup qualifying campaign.

Thailand's head coach Kiatisuk 'Zico' Senamuang insists his side are ready to spring a surprise despite being drawn in a tough group B for the final phase of AFC qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The Thais have been placed in what looks the more difficult of the two qualifying groups, facing Asian champions Australia, regular World Cup finalists Japan and Middle Eastern heavyweights Saudi Arabia. They also have to play Iraq again -- having faced them in the previous round -- and the United...

Thailand's Zico unafraid of Japan and Australia in AFC WCQ final round

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and David Mitchell look ahead to Thailand's upcoming AFC World Cup qualifying campaign.

Thailand will face Asian giants Australia and Japan in the final round of qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

The War Elephants were placed in Group B at the draw held in Malaysia on Tuesday, with the two heavyweights, as well as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Iraq.

Kiatisuk Senamuang's men kick-off their first final round campaign since 2002 on Sept. 1 at Saudi Arabia before hosting four-time Asian champions Japan five days later.

"We always knew it was going to be a tough draw for us,"...

WCQ: Australia, Japan in Group B, South Korea meet Iran in Group A

ESPN FC's Jason Dasey and David Mitchell break down the AFC World Cup qualifying draw, with Australia finding themselves in a tough group.

Australia and Japan will meet in the final round of 2018 AFC World Cup qualification for the third successive time following the draw made in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday afternoon.

The Samurai Blue and the Socceroos developed a major rivalry after clashes at the 2006 World Cup, qualification for the 2010 and 2014 global tournaments and the 2011 Asian Cup final which Japan won 1-0.

Both will be hoping to finish in the top two spots in Group B and qualify automatically for Russia.

China keep alive their 2018 World Cup hopes, as Australia and Japan cruise

China completed a remarkable transformation in their 2018 World Cup AFC qualifying campaign after a 2-0 victory over Qatar saw them advance to the third round on the road to Russia. 

Facing elimination if they failed to win in Xian, China brought the game to life just before the hour. Qatari goalkeeper Amine Lecomte saved from point-blank range but was helpless as the rebound was hit against the underside of the bar and bounced out.

The ball found its way to Huang Bowen, whose shot on the turn...