Nepal into final rounds of Asian Cup qualifiersNepal get direct entry into the third round after Qatar and China qualify for finals as their group winners and runners-up.
Nepal have qualified for the final rounds of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers after the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) announced changes in the rule for qualification on Wednesday.
Nepal, who were set to go through playoffs for a place in the qualifiers, were given direct entry into the third or the final round of the Asian qualifiers after the defending champions Qatar and next edition’s hosts China and both qualified for the AFC Asian Cup finals as group winners and best four runners up among all eight groups.
Qatar qualified as Group ‘E’ winners and China as Group ‘A’ runners up for both — next round of the World Cup Qualifiers as well as the finals of the Asian Cup. Qatar and China’s direct qualification for the Asian Cup finals paved the way for all the fourth-placed teams as well as three best fifth-placed teams from all eight groups to make it to the final rounds of the AFC Asian Cup final round qualifiers.
Nepal finished fourth in Group ‘B’, whose other teams included Australia, Kuwait, Jordan and Chinese Taipei. Along with Nepal, three of the lowest ranked second-placed teams, all eight third- and fourth-placed teams across Groups ‘A’ to ‘H’, as well as three best fifth-placed teams – 22 in total – have qualified for the 24-team qualifiers final rounds.
The bottom four fifth-placed teams, ranked 36th to 39th, will compete in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers play-offs for two available spots, according to the AFC. The second round of the Asian qualifiers, which also served as the next round qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, saw participation of 39 teams. Nepal were ranked 32nd among them.
The winners of all eight groups and the five best runners up earned a direct berth for the next round of World Cup qualifiers as well as the Asian Cup finals.
Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kuwait made it to the final round of Asian qualifiers as the bottom placed second teams while Bahrain, Turkmenistan, Jordan, Palestine, Malaysia, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan and India advanced as third-placed teams among all eight groups. Nepal along with Thailand, Singapore, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Maldives and Sri Lanka advanced as fourth-placed teams. Bangladesh, Yemen and Myanmar qualified as the best three fifth-placed teams.
There will be a total of 24 teams in the final round of qualifiers and the participating teams will be divided into six groups each consisting of four teams. The winners and runners up of each group will book a place in the finals. The date for the final rounds of qualifiers is yet to be announced.
Nepal are already out of the World Cup fray. In the second rounds joint qualifiers matches of the Asian Cup and World Cup, Nepal had defeated Chinese Taipei 2-0 in both legs while gone down 5-0 and 3-0 against Australia, faced identical 3-0 defeats against Jordan, and lost 7-0 and 1-0 to Kuwait.