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Kuala Lumpur: Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has hailed the Islamic Republic of Iran for sealing Asia’s first spot at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ after a hard fought 2-0 victory over Uzbekistan on Monday at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.

“On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to congratulate the Islamic Republic of Iran for their convincing and consistent campaign throughout the qualifiers to become the first Asian team to qualify for Russia 2018.

“This achievement reflects the hard work and commitment of the Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran to succeed at the highest international level. As envisaged in the AFC’s Vision and Mission, I hope their World Cup qualification will inspire the team to do Asia proud on the world’s biggest stage.

“As we approach the closing stages of qualification, I wish all our teams the very best of luck.”

Team Melli’s victory on Monday not only guaranteed their safe passage to the 2018 World Cup, but ensured they did so in style with two Group Stage matches to spare.

Iran will now compete at a fifth – and second consecutive - FIFA World Cup finals, putting them on par with Japan as Asia’s second most consistent qualifiers for the global event, and behind Korea Republic who have appeared nine times. Both East Asian teams are currently in pole position to qualify for next year’s extravaganza in Russia.

Korea Republic travel to Qatar in Tuesday targeting three points and Group A’s second qualifying spot, while Group B leaders Japan face Iraq in Tehran knowing that a win will move them three points clear of both Saudi Arabia and Australia.

The top two teams in each group will qualify automatically for Russia 2018, with the third-placed teams set to meet each other for the right to face the fourth-placed team in the CONCACAF final qualifying group.

For more details on the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Asian Qualifiers – Final Round, please click here.

Photo: Lagardère Sports