Iran will square off against Iraq on Tuesday knowing a draw will be enough to secure a place in the next round of World Cup qualifiers.
With only Japan, Australia, Syria, and South Korea guaranteed a spot in the final qualification round, eight remaining berths will be up for grabs on the final day of preliminary group phase.
Group winners plus five best runners-up will progress to the next round.
Iran will step into the match in Muharraq, Bahrain, second in Group C, trailing Iraq by two points.
Lebanon’s 2-1 defeat against South Korea on the final day of Group H on Sunday meant that even a single point against Iraq will see Dragan Skocic’s men overtake Lebanon in the runners-up table.
However, the Croatian manager will hope his team will build on a recent formidable form heading into the game and win the match, and the group by the end of the day.
Iran cruised to emphatic victories over Hong Kong (3-1), Bahrain (3-0), and Cambodia (10-0) on their return to the group campaign in Bahrain.
“We will only think of the match against Iraq from now on,” Skocic said after his team’s thrashing of Cambodia on Friday, adding, “The tournament is not yet finished for us. We respect Iraq, and I hope my team play as they have played against Hong Kong, Bahrain and Cambodia in our previous matches.”
Iraq, meanwhile, beat Cambodia by a 4-1 scoreline before defeating Hong Kong by one goal in Bahrain.
Iraq came out victorious 2-1 in the reverse fixture, courtesy of a stoppage-time winner by Mohanad Ali Alaa Abbas, but things have changed drastically for Iran since November 2019, after the country parted ways with former Belgian manager Marc Wilmots.
Iran’s in-form midfielder Vahid Amiri will be a major doubt for Tuesday’s clash – after being stretched out against Bahrain – while Iraqi playmaker Bashar Resan – injured against Hong Kong – will also face a race against time to recover for the match.