Crucial evening for ASEAN hopefuls with World Cup qualification progress still realistic for some

Despite losing their last two outings against Oman, Malaysia still stand a chance of reaching the third round of Asian qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup -- having previously won their opening two ties against Kyrgyz Republic and Chinese Taipei. How Foo Yeen/Getty Images

As the second round of Asian qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup reaches its penultimate match day on Thursday, things are certainly going down to the wire -- especially for the competition's Southeast Asian hopefuls.

All seven of the region's representatives still have a chance of progressing to the next stage and keeping their World Cup dream alive, although some have more legitimate prospects than others.

Here, we take a look at where each of them stand and what they must do in order to advance.


Bottom of Group B with just one point to their names, Myanmar are still mathematically capable of finishing inside the top two but, based on what they have served up so far, they are the least likely suspects from all of ASEAN's contenders.

The only time they have avoided defeated so far was a remarkable 1-1 draw against Syria, although the fact that they currently have a negative goal difference of 17 highlights the gulf in class between them and the rest of the group.

Myanmar have it all to do -- even on home soil -- against powerhouses Japan on Thursday, before finishing their campaign against a North Korea outfit that is also currently outside the qualification zone and in desperate need of points.


Finding themselves in what has proven to be one of the trickiest groups of the campaign, Thailand currently sit three points behind second-placed China -- who they visit on Thursday in what should be a pivotal tie.

It was a 2-1 loss in their previous clash last November -- a game in which the Thais could, and perhaps should, have won -- that ultimately sealed the fate of former coach Alexandre Polking, even if he was only dismissed after the following match.

Should Thailand be able to pull off an upset, it would put them in a promising position given they finish up against Group C's bottom side Singapore while the Chinese have to play away to heavily-fancied South Korea.


Like Myanmar, Singapore are yet to be eliminated despite picking up just a solitary point thus far.

But with South Korea being their next immediate assignment on Thursday, the Lions could soon be turning their attentions elsewhere -- especially given they were beaten 5-0 by the same opposition in the reverse encounter.

Singapore then finish up against Thailand next Tuesday, which should offer plenty of incentive regardless of their qualification status -- given their regional rivalry and the fact that both sides have been drawn to meet again at the end of the year in the ASEAN Championship.


A campaign that started so bright has now hit a few bumps but Malaysia remain very much in with a shout of progressing to the third round of Asian World Cup qualifiers.

Despite losing their past two Group D games to Oman, Harimau Malaya will now finish up against Kyrgyz Republic and Chinese Taipei -- the two teams they beat previously when they opened their campaign in flawless fashion.

Three points off the pace at the moment, Malaysia will be heavy favourites in next Tuesday's home game against already-eliminated Chinese Taipei -- meaning they would take a huge step towards progressing should they be able to overcome Kyrgyz Republic on Thursday.


In a Group F that boasts three Southeast Asian hopefuls, it is Indonesia who are currently in pole position to join the already-qualified Iraq in the next round.

Four points ahead of Vietnam in second place, the Indonesians do have a tough test on Thursday against the Iraqis but their recent displays against more-fancied opposition -- coupled with home advantage at the intimidating Gelora Bung Karno Stadium -- will see them believing in their chances of a shock result.

Even if they do lose, Indonesia can guarantee their spot in the next stage as long as they beat Philippines in their final second-round tie next week.


For a side that did so well to reach the third round of Asian World Cup qualifiers last time out, Vietnam are now at real risk of missing out.

Thursday's home game against Philippines offers a real opportunity to close the gap between them and second-placed Indonesia to just one point -- and it is a game they are expected to pick up maximum points in.

Nonetheless, they face the toughest final-day assignment of the lot in an away trip to Iraq, meaning they might have just left themselves with too much to do at the end.


Bottom of Group F with just one point picked up so far, Philippines -- along with Myanmar and Singapore -- look the least likely to march on.

They have however played both ties against leaders Iraq, meaning they face slightly less-daunting ties against Vietnam and Indonesia over the next six days.

Philippines will still head into those games as the underdogs but the familiarity with those two teams, as well as the additional regional rivals factor, means that anything is possible.