BAHRAIN are set to face a difficult task having been drawn in Group ‘C’ for the upcoming Asian qualifiers for the 2022 Fifa World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.
The other teams in their pool are Iran, Iraq, Hong Kong and Cambodia.
The draw, conducted by Fifa Director of Competitions Christian Unger and Australian legend Tim Cahill, was held yesterday at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
There are eight groups in all in this upcoming qualification phase, which is already the second round of qualifiers. This stage is being jointly held for both the World Cup and Asian Cup.
Teams will play home and away matches in this round. They are scheduled to take place between September later this year and June of next year.
North and South Korea will face off after being drawn in the same group.
Iran, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Saudi Arabia – who all played in the 2018 World Cup in Russia – were drawn in different groups.
China, who are seeking to qualify for the World Cup for only the second time, look to have a promising fixture against lower-ranked opponents including Syria and Guam.
The country and its 73rd-ranked team have grand ambitions to host and win a World Cup under football-fan President Xi Jinping.
South Korea is one of Asia’s best sides and should easily beat the North, but the matches between the neighbours on the divided Korean peninsula promise to be bitter.
After the draw, South Korea coach Paulo Bento insisted that facing the North was “nothing special”.
“For us it is a sport – the goal is to qualify,” he said.
“The message I will share with the players when we play against North Korea is to give them the same respect we will have for any other teams we will play against.”
The teams will compete in a round-robin format, with the winners of the eight groups and four runners-up progressing to a final round of qualifying.