Vietnam get Japan, Australia; heavyweights Korea Republic, Iran to face off

In their first-ever appearance in the final round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, upstarts Vietnam will have it all to do after being drawn in Group B on Thursday alongside a trio of giants in Japan, Australia and Saudi Arabia.

All three teams featured at the last World Cup in 2018 with only the top two guaranteed qualification to Qatar 2022, meaning at least one of those heavyweights will have to hope to advance through the playoffs.

Vietnam will have to pull off several upsets if they are to keep their World Cup dream alive, and things will not be much easier in their other ties with China PR and Oman.

Over in Group A, Korea Republic and Iran will be the frontrunners to qualify but will have to be wary of the likes of Iraq, United Arab Emirates and Syria, with Lebanon rounding off that sextet.

The draw also means Japan and Australia take on one another for the fourth successive qualifying campaign but, having claimed a perfect eight wins from eight in the previous round, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold was bullish about his team's prospects.

"What we learnt in the second phase where we had to play seven out of eight games away from home, and we won all eight games, has given the players a lot of belief and confidence when they play away from home," Arnold said.

"We've shown in that second phase a lot of resilience and, as I said, a lot of belief so wherever we play we expect to win every game."

The 2022 World Cup could be the first to feature six members from the Asian Football Confederation with Qatar present by virtue of being hosts, along with the two best-performing teams from the final qualifying round.

Meanwhile, the two third-best teams will face off for a spot in the inter-confederation playoffs, where they will then need to see off opponents from either CONCACAF, CONMEBOL or OFC in order to book their place at the World Cup.

The final round of Asian qualifiers will begin on Sep. 2 before finishing up on March 29.