Asia's traditional powers face a nervous World Cup qualifier run in

Iran are the only regional power who will definitely be in Russia in the summer of 2018

South Korea, Qatar, World Cup,

South Korea's players react after losing the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification soccer match against Qatar at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, capital of Qatar, June 13, 2017. Qatar won 3-2. (Xinhua/Nikku)

Exactly 365 days from today, the 2018 World Cup will kick off.

Thus far only Brazil and Iran have booked their place alongside hosts Russia.

For Iran, it's been a relatively serene campaign with qualification secured with two matchdays to go.

But for some of Asia's other major football powers, nerves will be jangling.

South Korea, who have qualified for every World Cup since 1986 and reached the semis on home soil in 2002 and the last 16 eight years later, are in a more perilous position than they would hope to be in Iran's group.

After Iran head beaten third placed Uzbekistan to seal qualification, Son Heung Min and co had a chance to really nail down second place and impose a four point gap over Uzbekistan with six games to go.

But the Taeguk Warriors ended up losing 3-2 at a Qatar team who are out of the running for automatic qualification.

That leaves the South Koreans just a point above Uzbekistan with their next match against Iran on home soil on August 31st. On the same day, Uzbekistan take on bottom side China.

Maya Yoshida (L) of Japan vies with Saad Abdulameer Al-Dobjahawe of Iraq during the FIFA World Cup 2018 Asian qualification soccer match between Iraq and Japan at Dastgerdi stadium in Tehran, Iran, June 13, 2017. (Xinhua/Ahmad Halabisaz)

The only advantage for the Korean side is that Iran do not need the points, before South Korea and Uzbekistan go head to head five days later for what will essentially be a shootout to decide who qualifies automatically in second placed and who must go through a playoff that will first set up a tie against the third placed team from the other group in Asia. Even if a playoff is successfully negotiated what comes next is another playoff against the fourth placed team from CONCACAF's North and Central American division. That route is tricky and if possible, best avoided.

Group B is a tighter in a different way. None of the three runaway leaders and traditional giants, Japan, Australia or Saudi Arabia have secured qualification and they are tightly bunched together with a point separating all three.

Japan had a chance to put three points between themselves and second and third placed Saudi Arabia and Australia respectively but drew 1-1 against Iraq on the neutral grounds of Tehran.

Japan thus lead their two rivals by a point with games against Australia (home) and the Saudis (away) to come in the final matchdays at the end of August and first week of September.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia also face UAE away next while Australia host Thailand on the final matchweek at home which gives both sides a chance of getting three points that could see them overtake Japan outside of their head to head with the Samurai Blue. 

Conceivably, if they can't get the desired results, Japan and South Korea could end up pitched together in a playoff which would mean one of Asia's leading powers would be watching a World Cup from home.