Who will win three-way battle in Asia to keep alive FIFA World Cup hopes -- UAE, Iraq or Lebanon?

United Arab Emirates remain in pole position to finish third in Group A of the Asian FIFA World Cup qualifiers and advance to the playoff stage, but have a tough final game against South Korea. AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

Although Asia's four guaranteed teams that will join Qatar as the continent's representatives at the 2022 FIFA World Cup have been confirmed -- South Korea, Iran, Japan and Saudi Arabia -- with one round still to play in the third round of Asian qualifiers, there is still a chance for another to join the party.

They will have to do it the hard way: first via a continental playoff before vying with South America's fellow fifth-placed qualifier for a spot among the 32 teams headed to Qatar at the end of this year.

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Australia are one of the sides still in with a chance as they are guaranteed to finish third in Group B behind Japan and Saudi Arabia, but things are very much still up in the air in Group A with a trio heading into Tuesday's final qualifiers with a shot of sealing the second runners-up berth.

Just how exactly has the best chance?

3rd -- United Arab Emirates (9 points, goal difference of -1)

United Arab Emirates remain in the driving seat with a one-point advantage and a significantly better goal difference, and it is hard to argue against them having been the most consistent team in Group A behind South Korea and Iran.

They could have sealed third place by now but two defeats on the trot -- including Thursday's potentially-costly 1-0 loss to Iraq -- leaves them in a precarious position, especially given they finish their campaign against South Korea.

While the South Koreans are already through, they are likely to still field a strong XI with coach Paulo Bento looking to fine-tune various aspects of their play, especially with limited opportunities for friendlies in the lead-up to the World Cup.

UAE do boast enough quality to cause South Korea problems, especially in the likes of Ali Mabkhout and Caio Canedo, although they may have just left themselves with too big a hurdle to overcome -- especially given a draw might not be enough to take them into the playoff.

4th -- Iraq (8 points, goal difference of -6)

Considering Iraq's first win in this stage of the Asian qualifiers only came last week, it is remarkable that they are still in the running but, while they have struggled to pull off victories, their ability to grind out draws -- including one against South Korea in the opening round -- has kept them alive.

It has certainly been a turbulent campaign for the Iraqis with current coach Abdul-Ghani Shahad their fourth different man at the helm in the third round of Asian qualifiers, although all that matters is that they could be coming good at the right time.

With limited time to turn things around, Shahad has turned to some of Iraq's more-seasoned campaigners and had his faith repaid in Thursday's win over UAE, but there is also some exciting young talent to call upon in the form of England-based duo Zidane Iqbal and Ali Al-Hamadi -- the former having already featured for Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League this season.

Perhaps the best thing going for Iraq is that they have -- on paper -- the most straightforward of tests on Tuesday against already-eliminated Syria, who are however on a high after a 3-0 victory over Lebanon on Thursday.

5th -- Lebanon (6 points, goal difference of -6)

Lebanon are the only one of the three teams that are still looking for their maiden World Cup appearance. Unfortunately for them, chances are that wait will be prolonged for another four years at least.

The Lebanese need everything to fall into place in order to climb into third spot: a UAE loss to South Korea, Iraq to not beat Syria and -- perhaps the toughest ask of all -- a victory of their own against Iran. And a five-goal swing in the goal difference column, as well.

Lebanon have shown signs of improvement in recent years, featuring in AFC Asian Cup in 2019 for only the second time after they hosted the tournament almost two decades earlier.

Regardless of how their World Cup qualifying campaign concludes -- and chances are it will be on Tuesday -- there will still be plenty of positives for them to look back on.

Prediction: Iraq to get the win against Syria and pip UAE to Group A's playoff berth and set up a duel with Australia.