AFC 2014 World Cup qualifying: Battle between surprise sides rages on

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Every time AFC World Cup qualifying matches come around, we learn that Asia has four-and-a-half spots all over again.

Yes, the Asian Football Confederation has four automatic berths into the 2014 World Cup, along with one playoff spot. This was announced long ago, but it's easily to forget, simply based on who has a chance to get to the World Cup as a result of those change. One of Iran, Uzbekistan, Qatar or Lebanon will qualify for the World Cup. Another one of those teams will have the chance to go to a playoff. At least one of Oman, Jordan or Iraq will also have the chance to go to a playoff, and one of them might qualify outright.

While all other confederations are taking the international date off and letting their teams play friendly matches this Wednesday, AFC is fitting in another round of play. Australia and South Korea just happen to be sitting out this time around, but eight other teams are in action, including Japan.

Oman will get the Japanese out of the way with three more games to play. They'll probably see this as scheduling working out in their favor. Japan are inching closer to clinching a top-two spot in Group B, and will probably end up as the first team anywhere in the world to earn a World Cup berth. The biggest game of the day is in Tehran, where Iran, placed second in Group A, hosts third-placed Uzbekistan.

Schedule (all times ET)

Oman vs. Japan - 6:30 a.m.
Iraq vs. Jordan - 8 a.m.
Qatar vs. Lebanon - 9:45 a.m.
Iran vs. Uzbekistan - 11:30 a.m.

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