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Olympics 2024 Daily Missions July to August – EN
Gareth Bale
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World Cup 2026: Australia, Iraq, Japan Stay Perfect

The second round of the World Cup 2026 Asian qualifiers is already done and dusted, as 18 nations are through to the third round. And the teams that made it are the ones we expected.

Qatar, Kuwait, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, China, Oman, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Australia, and Palestine have advanced, but they all still have a long way to go before they clinch their spot in America.

While they all made it this far by topping their respective groups, we are particularly impressed with Australia, Iraq, and Japan because they came out of the second round unblemished, so they are some of the favourite Asian teams to qualify for the quadrennial meet, according to the World Cup 2026 odds.

Without further ado, here is our SBOTOP recap of the World Cup 2026 updates.


Australia are just too good

Australia topped Group I with 18 points, as they’ve won all their matches in the second round. Right behind them was Palestine, who finished with eight points.

The Socceroos had the second-best goal difference after the second round, as they recorded 22 goals while conceding none on the other end.

Australia recorded a 7-0 rout of Bangladesh to start their second round proceedings. Harry Souttar and Brandon Borrello had one goal apiece, while Mitch Duke had a brace and Jamie Maclaren had a hat-trick. Australia then eked out a 1-0 victory over Palestine, as Souttar scored once more.

After losing to South Korea in the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup in February, the Socceroos picked up where they left off with back-to-back wins against Lebanon (2-0 and 5-0), a 2-0 win over Bangladesh, and another 5-0 victory against Palestine.

One of the biggest takeaways in the second round is the fact that Australia has found a gem in Kusini Yengi. Since receiving his first national team call-up last year, the Portsmouth striker has now compiled four goals in eight caps.

Nestory Irankunda has also caught our attention. He became the second-youngest player to score for the national team during their 5-0 rout of Palestine last night. The future is bright for the 18-year-old centre-forward.


Hussein continues to fire for Iraq

Aymen Hussein has been leading Iraq’s attacking line in World Cup 2026 Asian Qualifiers, scoring 4 goals in 5 matches
Iraq’s Aymen Hussein celebrates scoring the penalty goal with his teammates against Indonesia

Iraq also dominated the second round proceedings by also winning all six of their Group F matches, and they finished with an impressive +15 goal difference after scoring 17 goals and only conceding twice.

The Mesopotamian Lions started their campaign with a 5-1 win over Indonesia before escaping with a 1-0 victory over Vietnam.

After losing to Jordan in the Round of 16 of the AFC Asian Cup, Iraq bounced back with consecutive victories against the Philippines (1-0 and 5-0) before beating Indonesia 2-0 and Vietnam 3-1 yesterday.

Aymen Hussein has come alive for the Mesopotomian Lions after going scoreless in the first three games. The 28-year-old striker is now their top scorer after recording a brace against the Philippines and one goal each against Indonesia and Vietnam.

Hussein is one of the most tenured national team members in Iraq, as he now has 27 goals in 76 caps.

Utrecht midfielder Zidane Iqbal is another player to watch out for from Iraq, as the 21-year-old represents the future of the national team alongside 23-year-old Mohanad Ali.

Indonesia finished behind Iraq, and they are coming off a 2-0 victory over the Philippines yesterday. They have compiled 10 points in Group F with three wins, two losses, and one draw.


Japan remain sharp

The team that has a better goal difference than Australia is Japan, who had two more goals in the second round.

Japan got off to a brilliant start, as they walloped Myanmar and Syria to back-to-back 5-0 scorelines, although their momentum was halted when they lost to Iran in the AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals in February.

Japan beat North Korea 1-0 on their home turf, but FIFA decided to abruptly cancel their rematch five days later due to health and safety reasons. North Korea were reportedly unwilling to host Japan because the Samurai Blue dealt with rising cases of streptococcus in March.

As a result, Japan were awarded a 3-0 default win, which was followed by another consecutive 5-0 results over Myanmar and Syria.

Japan have so many weapons in their arsenal, but the one that stood out was Ayase Ueda. The Feyenoord forward is the second-leading scorer in the second round with six goal, while SC Freiburg’s Ritsu Doan is behind him with three goals. North Korea finished second behind Japan in Group B with nine points (W3, L3).




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