Five things to keep an eye on for match day 4 of the Asian World Cup qualifiers

The second round of Asian qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup is now at the pivotal halfway mark.

With match day 4 taking place on Tuesday, the qualification picture will soon become far clearer.

Some teams closer to the summit will soon be tantalisingly close to securing their passage to the next stage -- as well as booking their place at the 2027 AFC Asian Cup -- while the journey could be over for those nearer the bottom.

Here, we take a closer look at five key storylines to monitor closely on Tuesday.

South Korea look to bounce back from shock Thailand draw

After the negativity that surrounded the relatively short-lived reign of Jürgen Klinsmann, any hope that South Korea would enjoy some immediate joy following his departure was quashed on Thursday when they were held to a shock 1-1 draw at home to Thailand.

The Thais are no slouches but it was a match that South Korea were expected to comfortably win, especially after emphatic 5-0 and 3-0 victories over Singapore and China respectively in their previous outings.

Instead, after leading through Son Heung-Min's first-half opener, they failed to build on the advantage and Thailand would eventually hit back through a superb poacher's effort by the fast-improving Suphanat Mueanta.

Despite the draw, South Korea remain firmly in control of proceedings in Group C but they will be aware of the task they face when they renew acquaintances with the War Elephants in Bangkok on Tuesday, as well as the potential repercussions a second unsatisfactory result could have.

The powerhouses who could secure early progress

Even with two more match days to be played after Tuesday, qualification for the third round of Asian qualifiers could already be secured by several teams -- and it should not come as any surprise that they are primarily the perennial heavyweights.

With three wins from three matches, Qatar, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Australia can all guarantee their progress with just one more win -- and a draw could even be enough for some depending on how other results go.

Also with nine points to their names, Japan would have been in this group but their away trip to North Korea was cancelled by FIFA due to the designated hosts' inability to come out with an alternative venue after declining to entertain the visiting team.

Still, it might not take long for Japan's passage to be secured given it is likely they will be awarded a 3-0 victory.

And while neither Iran nor Uzbekistan have a perfect record, both could also advance with victories over Turkmenistan and Hong Kong respectively -- which would see them establish a nine-point buffer between the bottom two.

Malaysia entrenched in Group D logjam

Malaysia's high-flying start to the second round of Asian qualifiers came to a halt on Thursday when they were beaten 2-0 by Oman -- a result that was far from embarrassing given the more-illustrious opposition they were up against.

What this means however is that they now find themselves in a real logjam in Group D with the duo and Kyrgyz Republic all level on six points.

Even if Harimau Malaya fall to a second straight defeat to Oman, their fate will still be in their own hands given they will still meet Kyrgyz Republic, as well as bottom side Chinese Taipei.

But should they manage to get a result at Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Tuesday, it could be a huge boost to their prospects of negotiating their passage out of a congested situation.

Will Indonesia do the double over bitter rivals Vietnam?

Prior to this year, Indonesia had gone six games without a win against Vietnam -- dating back to 2016.

In the span on three months, they have now mustered two victories -- and crucial wins for that matter, the first in January sealing a remarkable place in the round of 16 at the Asian Cup, while the most recent on Thursday being their first win in the second round of Asian qualifiers.

The stakes are high when they meet again in Hanoi and the upcoming tie has only been made all the more intriguing given an ever-intensifying enmity.

While there is always rivalry between Southeast Asian sides, Indonesia's and Vietnam's traditional enemies used to be Malaysia and Thailand respectively -- largely owing to geographical proximity.

Yet, with familiarity breeding contempt as the two meet with increasing frequency over recent times, there is now hardly any love lost between them -- with the animosity only building through various verbal barbs being fired -- the latest coming from the Vietnam camp insinuating that Merah Putih were virtually a "foreign" team given the amount of naturalised players within their ranks, even if all of them do indeed have Indonesian heritage.

Can Jordan build on Asian Cup run and gather more momentum?

Jordan's remarkable run to the final of the Asian Cup at the start of the year was all the more impressive given they had not been in the best of forms prior to the tournament.

With just one point from their opening two qualifiers back in November, the Jordanians would then pull off a captivating charge to a runners-up finish in Qatar -- on the back of some irrepressible displays by the front trio of Musa Al-Taamari, Yazan Al-Naimat and Ali Olwan.

Last Thursday, Jordan carried that momentum and kickstarted their Asian qualifiers campaign with a 3-0 win over Pakistan, who they meet against on home soil on Tuesday.

Tougher tests lie ahead in the form of Tajikistan and the mighty Saudi Arabia, so it is imperative that Jordan do not slip up against the bottom-placed Pakistanis -- and it could even be crucial that they deliver a statement of intent with a dominant victory.