Son-less South Korea qualify for World Cup; Japan throw Group B wide open

A second team has qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup from the third and final round of Asian qualifiers, after South Korea secured a top-two finish in Group A with a 2-0 win over Syria on Tuesday.

The result sees the South Koreans join Iran -- who previously secured their own berth on Thursday -- as two of Asia's three confirmed representatives at the year-end tournament alongside hosts Qatar.

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While the only thing left to play for in Group A is third spot and a place in the qualifying playoff, Group B remains wide open three teams still in the running to claim a guaranteed spot at the World Cup -- following Japan's 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

Here, we recap the major plot points that developed from Match Day 8 of the Asian qualifiers.

Japan down Saudi Arabia to send Group B down to the wire

Having claimed six wins and a draw in their previous seven matches, Saudi Arabia finally suffered their first defeat of the campaign as they fell to Japan courtesy of goals from Takumi Minamino and Junya Ito.

Remarkably, given they still boast an impressive record, Saudi Arabia are now in real danger of missing out on the top two given the buffer between them and the chasing pack has now been whittled down to a solitary point.

The Green Falcons still have a pivotal game against Australia to come in their final qualifier, while Japan now look to be in the ascendancy after overcoming a slow start to win five on the trot.

Australia, meanwhile, missed the chance to close the gap by twice surrendering leads in Oman.

Alarm bells ringing for China after shock loss to Vietnam

Even though China PR have been far from impressive throughout the campaign, and were never truly in with a realistic chance of qualification, Tuesday's 3-1 loss to Vietnam -- a team they had never previously lost to -- will come as a new low.

Despite being expected to beat an opposition 24 places below them in the FIFA world rankings, the Chinese failed to match the endeavour shown by Vietnam from the opening whistle and the final score fully reflected the balance of play at My Dinh National Stadium.

Considering this was a China outfit that was expected to be boosted by the naturalisation of several foreign-born stars, including Tyias Browning, Alan Carvalho and Aloisio, the shock defeat should come as huge wake-up call if they are to repeat their sole World Cup appearance from 2002 sooner rather than later.

South Korea hardly troubled by Son absence but tougher tests await

Despite being without talismanic forward Son Heung-min, South Korea were still able to secure a 10th consecutive World Cup appearance over the past week, with Tuesday's win over Syria following last Thursday's 1-0 triumph over Lebanon.

The depth at coach Paulo Bento's disposal bodes well for the Taegeuk Warriors, with the likes of Cho Gue-sung and Kwon Chang-hoon rising to the occasion in Son's absence but they have to be aware that there is still plenty of work to be done.

After all, expectations were also high four years ago, only for the South Koreans to be eliminated prematurely following defeats to Sweden and Mexico before ending their campaign with a stunning 2-0 triumph over then champions Germany.

For a team looking to take the next step in world football's biggest stage, while also boasting one of the game's biggest names, South Korea need to be setting their sights high in Qatar come the end of the year.