The 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers are back in full swing in Asia and the excitement is especially palpable in Southeast Asia -- a region that boasts some of the most passionate football fans anywhere on the planet.
A total of eight ASEAN national teams from are taking part in the second round of qualifiers, which also double up as the pathway to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, and there is a great deal at stake over the next few weeks.
Only 12 teams -- eight group winners and four best second-placed teams -- will progress to the next phase of the World Cup qualifiers. We rate the performances of each of the ASEAN teams so far and gauge which are poised to advance.
PHILIPPINES (Third in Group A)
The Philippines have been a standout in the World Cup qualifiers and occupy third place in Group A behind Syria and China PR. They have collected seven points from five matches -- eight points behind group toppers Syria and only three behind Team Dragon.
Scott Cooper's men recorded wins against both Guam and Maldives in the first half of their campaign and held Marcelo Lippi's China to a historic goalless draw, thanks to the heroics of their superstar shot-stopper Neil Etheridge. Though the Azkals should feel confident about playing the same three sides again in their remaining fixtures, they will be significantly handicapped by the absence of a string of players including Birmingham's Etheridge and midfielder John-Patrick Strauss.
The fact that second-placed China have had struggles of their own, and still have to play leaders Syria, means the Azkals have an outside chance of making it to the third round as one of the runner-ups if things go their way in Dubai.
Grade so far: B
CAMBODIA (Fifth in Group C)
With just one point from their first five matches, Cambodia's hopes of progressing are all but over. They entered the second round as the lowest-ranked nation from Southeast Asia and were not expected to pull off any surprises in a group that also featured Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and Hong Kong.
After a promising 1-1 draw against Hong Kong in their group opener, the Angkor Warriors have had some long days at the office -- including when they shipped 14 goals against Team Melli. Nonetheless, it will still be an exciting few outings for Cambodia's supporters as they get to see their team under new coach Ryu Hirose for the first time.
The Japanese coach took charge of Cambodia in March replacing Felix Dalmas, who had guided the team in the previous qualifiers alongside Japan legend Keisuke Honda. With the 2021 AFF Suzuki Cup on the horizon, the three difficult fixtures in Hong Kong will serve Hirose well as he gets to know the group.
Grade so far: F
SINGAPORE (Third in Group D)
Singapore and Uzbekistan have a battle on their hands for the runner-up spot in Group D. Only two points separate the two sides with the Uzbeks currently occupying second place with nine points.
The Lions will take on Uzbekistan on June 7 in Riyadh, where a win for the ASEAN side could prove crucial in their bid to progress to the second round. Saudi Arabia, hosts of the remainder of the qualification ties, are at the top with 11 points. The three teams have history after being drawn together in the third round of the 2010 World Cup Qualifiers.
It was the Uzbeks and the Saudis who progressed to the final ten then while Singapore were forced to forfeit two matches for fielding an ineligible player. Tatsuma Yoshida and his Singapore side have a chance to exact sweet revenge by pushing Uzbekistan out of the World Cup qualification places.
Grade so far: C
MYANMAR (Fourth in Group F)
Myanmar have had highs and lows in the qualification tournament so far. There was the famous upset of Tajikistan in their fourth outing that was followed by a 10-0 thrashing at the hands of Japan last week. The Asian Lions have collected six points from as many matches and have games against the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan to come as they bring their second-round campaign to an end.
Hosts Japan will advance as group winners having won all six of their ties so far. Tajikistan sit second with 10 points while Kyrgyz Republic are third with seven points and a game in hand.
Currently fourth with six points and matches against Kyrgyz and Tajikistan to come, Myanmar can book a berth in the next round of Asian Cup qualifiers by finishing one place above, but even that looks like a daunting task for Antoine Hey's charges with the stern competition in Group F.
Grade so far: C
VIETNAM (First in Group G)
Reigning ASEAN champions Vietnam have lived up to their billing in the qualifiers so far and sit pretty atop Group G. They find themselves pitted against three other ASEAN nations -- Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia -- as well as the United Arab Emirates.
They are the only ASEAN side who have yet to lose in the qualification tournament -- winning three and drawing two of their matches to accumulate 11 points. Under South Korean tactician Park Hang-seo, Vietnam have already enjoyed their best-ever display in the qualifiers and could progress to the next phase for the first time.
After surprising many at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup where they reached the quarterfinals, they look poised to become the underdogs in the third round of the qualifiers if Park and his men can keep their purple patch going.
Grade so far: A
MALAYSIA (Second in Group G)
Malaysia are second in the ASEAN-heavy Group G with nine points from five games -- two short of Vietnam and one ahead of Thailand. It won't be easy sailing for Tan Cheng Hoe and his side as they reconvene in Dubai looking to maintain or improve on second place.
Up first for Harimau Malaya will be a meeting against hosts UAE, who will be desperate to climb up the table after sitting fourth with only six points from four games. That will be followed by a rematch of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup against Vietnam who have been the trailblazers in the pool.
They will finish off the second-round campaign with a meeting against Southeast Asian opponent Thailand on June 15. Malaysia have proven in the past they can overcome their peers and they will need to reprise that form in the next couple of weeks to stay in the fight.
Grade so far: B
THAILAND (Third in Group G)
Thailand's best effort in the qualification so far has been a 2-1 win over UAE in their third outing. They then followed that up with a surprise defeat to Malaysia and a goalless draw against Vietnam. As a result, Changsuek lie in third place with eight points -- two ahead of UAE who have a game in hand.
The Thais face Indonesia on June 3 and a win could see them climb up to second as UAE face Malaysia on the same day. June 7's fixture against UAE could make or break the campaign for Akira Nishino's men as another win could see them bolster their chances of progression.
Having reached the final 12 in the qualifiers for the last World Cup, it could be a disappointment if the War Elephants miss out on the next stage this time around with the talent at their disposal.
Grade so far: C
INDONESIA (Fifth in Group G)
If there has been one team that has flattered to deceive, it has been Indonesia. Boasting some of the most vociferous supporters on the globe, Indonesia are yet to open their account after five matches -- an unwanted record that they share with Guam and Chinese Taipei.
Garuda shipped 16 goals in those five games under former coach Simon McMenemy and have a dire goal difference of minus-13.
Now a work in progress under new coach Shin Tae-yong, Indonesia will have little but pride to play for in their remaining three qualifiers against Thailand, Vietnam and UAE. Yet, that doesn't mean the pressure will be off Shin as Timnas look to avoid the ignominy of finishing the qualification campaign with no points in their bag.
Grade so far: F