Asian Cup qualifying heats up

Seven out of sixteen places are still up for grabs as the penultimate qualifying round for the 2007 AFC Asian Cup is played on Wednesday.

Heads up: Singapore's Daniel Bennet (L) and China's Jiayi Shao
Heads up: Singapore's Daniel Bennet (L) and China's Jiayi Shao

Five countries have already booked places in the Asian Cup draw with Australia, Japan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates joining hosts, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam in the tournament to be held in July next year.


Six groups of four teams have been fighting out qualification, with Group D reduced to three teams due to Lebanon’s withdrawal from the competition due to the conflict with Israel earlier in July.


In Group A, teams will be playing for pride in their last two matches as Saudi Arabia and Japan are already too far ahead of Yemen and India.


Saudi Arabia and Japan, who have both won the Asian Cup three times, will battle it out for top spot in the group with the Saudis currently holding a three point lead over the defending Cup champions.


Group B is also looking like a forgone conclusion with South Korea and Iran looking to secure their places in the final 16 when they take on Syria and Chinese Taipei respectively on Wednesday.


Draws for Korea and Iran would be enough to see them through, although Syria has an outside chance of qualifying if they can win their final two matches.


Jordan and Oman fight for final spot


UAE’s Aljunaibi Isamaeil (L) andJordan’s Khamees Mohammad

UAE’s Aljunaibi Isamaeil (L) and
Jordan’s Khamees Mohammad

The UAE have secured their place in the jointly hosted Cup as they sit atop Group C on ten points, but meet second placed Oman on Wednesday.


Oman have nine points from four matches so far, with Jordan, who are expected to beat the winless Pakistan at Punjab Stadium, Lahore on Wednesday, lurking behind them on four points.


The match between Jordan and Oman on the final day of qualifying later in November is shaping up to be a do-or-die affair for both teams.


In the three-team Group D, Australia are already assured of a place in the last 16 where either Kuwait or Bahrain will join them.


Bahrain play Australia in Sydney on Wednesday, but the crunch game for the Gulf island nation will be against Kuwait on the last day of qualifying, with the winner of that match going through to the final group stage.


All alive in Group E


In Group E, all four teams are still in contention for the two qualification spots, with Iraq and China both on seven points, while Singapore and Palestine are both on four points with two matches each to play.


Taher Hawar from Iraq (R) andPalestine’s Amer Taysir (L)

Taher Hawar from Iraq (R) and
Palestine’s Amer Taysir (L)

Iraq play Singapore at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain, UAE on Wednesday, while Palestine meet China at the King Abdullah International Stadium in Amman, Jordan.


Wins to Iraq and China will secure qualification for both teams, while wins to Singapore and Palestine will see all teams on seven points going into the final round of matches.


Finally in Group F, Qatar is way out in front having won four from four so far, while in contrast Bangladesh have lost four from four.


The two teams in the middle will fight it out for qualification, with Uzbekistan and Hong Kong both on five points, although the Uzbeks have a superior goal difference.


Bangladesh will host Uzbekistan at the Army Stadium, Dhaka, on Wednesday, while Hong Kong travel to Qatar to play at Al Gharafa Stadium, Doha.

Source : Al Jazeera

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