How many country qualify for World Cup in Asia?

In the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Asia was allocated 4 direct qualification spots and 1 interconfederation play-off spot. This means that 4 Asian teams automatically qualified for the World Cup, while 1 more team had the chance to qualify through a play-off against another confederation.

Direct Qualifiers

The 4 direct Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar were:

  • Qatar (hosts)
  • Iran
  • South Korea
  • Japan

Qatar automatically qualified as the host nation. The other 3 direct spots were determined through the third round of Asian qualifying, which took place from September 2021 to March 2022.

Third Round of Asian Qualifying

The third round of Asian World Cup qualifying consisted of 8 teams split into 2 groups of 4. The top 2 teams in each group would automatically qualify for the World Cup. The third placed teams would advance to a play-off.

The groups were as follows:

Group A Group B
South Korea Iran
Iran South Korea
UAE Japan
Iraq Saudi Arabia
Syria Australia
Lebanon Oman

In Group A, South Korea and Iran finished first and second to qualify. In Group B, Iran and Japan finished top two to qualify.

Interconfederation Play-off

The two third placed teams – UAE from Group A and Australia from Group B – advanced to a play-off. The winner of this play-off would play against the fifth placed CONMEBOL team for a spot in the World Cup.

In the Asian play-off, Australia defeated UAE 2-1 to claim the continent’s play-off spot. Australia then defeated Peru on penalties to qualify for the World Cup as the fifth Asian team.


In summary, 5 Asian teams qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup:

  • Qatar (host nation)
  • Iran
  • South Korea
  • Japan
  • Australia (through interconfederation play-off)

The 4 direct spots were allocated based on the third round of Asian World Cup qualifying. Australia also had a chance through the play-off system and was able to capitalize on it.

This shows the competitive nature of Asian qualifying, with 10 teams vying for those 4 direct spots. It also demonstrates how the interconfederation play-offs give teams from weaker confederations a second chance to make the World Cup.

History of Asian World Cup Qualification

Ever since Asia was allocated World Cup spots for the first time in 1954, qualification from the continent has been highly competitive. Here’s a quick overview of Asian World Cup qualification through the years:


Asia was allocated 1 spot in 1954 and 1958, going to South Korea and Northern Korea. The 1966 World Cup expanded to 16 teams, giving Asia 2 spots for the first time. North Korea qualified by winning the AFC Asian Cup, while South Korea advanced via playoffs.


Asia maintained 2 spots in 1970, 1974, and 1978, with Israel joining Asian teams. South Korea qualified in 1972. In 1982, Kuwait and New Zealand emerged from Asia/Oceania qualifying.


The 1990, 1994, and 1998 World Cups saw Asia given 2 direct spots and 1 play-off spot. South Korea qualified in 1986 and 1990. Japan made its first two appearances in 1998 and 2002. Iran also returned to the World Cup in 1998 after a long absence.


For the 2002 World Cup hosted jointly by South Korea and Japan, Asia was allocated 4.5 spots – the half spot going to the playoff winner. Both hosts qualified directly alongside Saudi Arabia and China. Iran won the playoff spot.

In 2006 and 2010, Asia had 4 direct spots. Australia switched from Oceania to Asia in 2006, immediately benefiting by qualifying directly instead of through the playoffs.


The 2014 and 2018 World Cups kept 4 direct Asian spots. Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Iran were regular qualifiers. Asia also had half-spots in playoffs against other confederations.

Number of Asian Teams in World Cups

Here’s a summary of how many Asian teams participated in each World Cup edition:

Year Host Nation Asian Teams
1954 Switzerland 1 (South Korea)
1958 Sweden 1 (Northern Korea)
1962 Chile 0
1966 England 2 (North Korea, South Korea)
1970 Mexico 1 (Israel)
1974 West Germany 1 (South Korea)
1978 Argentina 2 (Iran, Kuwait)
1982 Spain 1 (Kuwait)
1986 Mexico 1 (South Korea)
1990 Italy 2 (South Korea, UAE)
1994 USA 2 (Saudi Arabia, South Korea)
1998 France 3 (Iran, Japan, South Korea)
2002 South Korea & Japan 4 (China, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia) + Iran (playoff)
2006 Germany 4 (Australia, Iran, Japan, South Korea)
2010 South Africa 4 (Australia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea)
2014 Brazil 4 (Australia, Iran, Japan, South Korea)
2018 Russia 4 (Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea) + Australia (playoff)
2022 Qatar 4 (Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia) + Australia (playoff)

A few things stand out from this data:

  • South Korea has qualified for the most World Cups among Asian teams (10), followed by Japan and Iran (6 each).
  • Australia has qualified 4 times since switching to Asia in 2006.
  • West Asian countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have managed to qualify, despite East Asia dominating.
  • Israel competed as an Asian team from 1954 to 1974, qualifying once in 1970.
  • Asia got no participants at the 1962 World Cup in Chile.

So in summary, while East Asian teams South Korea and Japan have been Asia’s most regular World Cup qualifiers, West Asia and Australia have also gotten slots, showing the competitive balance in the continent.

Looking Ahead to 2026

The 2026 FIFA World Cup hosted by USA, Canada and Mexico will be expanded to 48 teams, up from 32 teams. This expansion is expected to benefit Asia, which could see its allocation rise to 8 spots.

With potentially 8 Asian participants, the World Cup will be more inclusive and give middle-tier teams from the continent a better shot at qualifying.

Teams like Syria, Uzbekistan, China, Iraq, Oman and Jordan have shown promise in recent years and could aim for those extra spots.

But competition will remain cut-throat, as powerhouses like Iran, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Australia are not going to give up their usual places easily.

The expanded tournament will motivate more Asian countries to invest in football development and strive for World Cup qualification. Overall, it’s a great opportunity for Asian football to improve its profile in the global arena.


Qualification for the FIFA World Cup from Asia has always been intensely competitive, with only a limited number of direct slots available. For 2022, Asia had 4 direct spots and 1 play-off spot, which were clinched by Qatar, Iran, South Korea, Japan and Australia.

Historically, South Korea leads with most Asian World Cup appearances at 10, while Japan and Iran have also been regular qualifiers. West Asian nations and Australia have sometimes earned qualification too.

The expanded 48-team 2026 World Cup will be a boon for Asia, likely increasing its allocation to 8 spots. This will motivate more Asian teams to aim for global glory and lift the profile of football in the continent.

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