If we finish in the top two of the current group featuring China, Iraq and Qatar there's still Round 4--another eight home and away fixtures--to come.
Commencing in September this year, Round 4 involves two groups of five teams each battling it out for a place in the World Cup finals. Only the top two teams from each group directly qualify, while the third place teams play each other in a decider in October next year. Five teams in total go through to the finals in South Africa.
Although there's only been two games played in Round 3 so far, we can probably make some fairly safe predictions about the composition of the two Round 4 groups.
From Round 3 Group 1:
AustraliaThere's no real doubt that Australia will qualify, but the contest for the other spot will be tight. After Iraq's loss to Qatar, China must be slight favourites.
From Round 3 Group 2:
JapanWhile Oman and Thailand might put a bit of pressure on these teams, they are both just too strong. The only question after Bahrain's recent home win over Japan is who will finish on top.
From Round 3 Group 3:
Korea RepublicIt'll be a fairly easy ride for the two Koreas. As the best of the third seeds in the groups Jordan are a handy team, but they've already lost at home to Korea DPR so their chances look bleak.
From Round 3 Group 4:
Saudi ArabiaThese two are utter power houses against relative minnows in Singapore and Lebanon. Uzbekistan is a team on the rise with good firepower up front and definitely one to watch out for in the later stages.
From Round 3 Group 5:
United Arab EmiratesThe other group of death. Iran have found themselves in very poor form at a bad time and have brought in Ali Daei as coach to help sort things out. It's hard to imagine them not making it through to the next stage. The U.A.E. on the other hand have put themselves on top courtesy of a strong win over Kuwait at home and a draw with Syria away. If Ismail Matar keeps scoring them should qualify, perhaps even ahead of Iran.
I have no idea how the Round 4 groups will be determined. It'll be tricky because of the odd number of teams in each group, meaning that one group will probably have three Round 3 group winners and the other just two. Higher seeded teams may also be preferentially allocated.
Purely to develop a hypothetical scenario I've undertaken a random draw, putting all the one Round 3 group winners in one hat and the runners-up in another, then simply alternately drawing one winner and one runner-up to take successive slots in each Round 4 group. I allowed teams from the same Round 3 group to be drawn together again. This is what I came up with:
Round 4 Group 1
Saudi ArabiaRound 4 Group 2
UzbekistanSeems like wishful thinking to me!
United Arab Emirates