World Cup path becomes clearer for Roos

Australia will be in Pot 1 for next week’s draw for the second round of 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifying in the Asian Football Confederation as expected.

The news will be officially confirmed when the latest Fifa rankings are released on Thursday, with the top eight ranked AFC nations to go in Pot 1 of the draw.

The Socceroos will move up only two spots to 63rd and remain the fourth best-ranked nation in the AFC, behind Iran, Japan and Korea Republic ahead of the April 14 draw in Kuala Lumpur which coach Ange Postecoglou will attend.

The 2018 Russia campaign will double as the qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup in UAE which will be a 24-team tournament.

Australia will rise just two spots after 2-2 and 0-0 draws with world champion Germany and FYR Macedonia respectively.

The Asian champions will be narrowly behind South Africa, Equatorial Guinea and Republic of Ireland and just ahead of Peru, Trinidad and Tobago and Burkina Faso.

Oman, who Australia have faced numerous times in qualifying previously, will drop out of Pot 1 – based on the previous month’s rankings – with Iraq replacing them after defeating DR Congo twice last week.

Pot 1 will consist of Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Australia, UAE, Uzbekistan, China PR and Iraq.

Pot 2 will include Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Vietnam, Syria and Kuwait.

One of the teams to look out for in the draw is 2010 World Cup finalists Korea DPR, who will be in Pot 4 after dropping to 157th, their worst ranking in 15 years.

The first round of qualifying has been completed – where football minnows such as Nepal, Mongolia and Sri Lanka were eliminated – meaning the second round will see the remaining 40 nations battle it out.

The 40 nations will be seeded into five pots of eight nations based on the Fifa rankings, with each group to consist of one team from each pot.

The eight group winners and four best runners-up will qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup and through to the third round of qualifying, whereby the top two teams from each group will qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Interestingly, this stage will consist of 12 nations, with two groups of six – unlike the 10 which fought it out in Australia’s two previous World Cup qualifying campaigns in Asia – meaning an extra two games.

Expected Pots to be confirmed Thursday

Pot 1: Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, China PR, Iraq

Pot 2: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, Bahrain, Vietnam, Syria, Kuwait

Pot 3: Afghanistan, Philippines, Palestine, Maldives, Thailand, Tajikistan, Lebanon, India

Pot 4: Timor-Leste, Kyrgyzstan, Korea DPR, Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Indonesia, Singapore, Bhutan

Pot 5: Malaysia, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Yemen, Guam, Laos, Cambodia, Chinese Taipei