Final Asian Cup games prove crucial

Kuwait and Uzbekistan aim to qualify for the 2007 Asian Cup at the expense of Hong Kong and Bahrain

    The 2007 Asian Cup finals will start on July 7

    Uzbekistan are coached by Valeri Nepomniatchi who took Cameroon to the quarter-finals of the 1990 World Cup. With this guidance and strong squad, a draw with Qatar will be enough to end Hong Kong's hopes of qualification.


    Their task will be made difficult by Qatar who will be looking to finish off qualifying with maximum points after starting with five wins from as many starts.


    Pim Verbeek, South Korean coach, plans to use his team's final qualifier against Iran as a key training exercise for the Asian Games, where they are tipped to win their first Asian football title since 1986.


    The Dutchman has named a squad that will be almost identical to those travelling to Doha for their first match against the Maldives on November 29. No European-based players are included due to club commitments.


    FIFA and Iran tensions


    After the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup in Korea and Japan in 2002, Iran underlined their position as one of Asia's top teams by qualifying comfortably for Germany 2006.


    However, the Iranian Football Federation (IRIFF) has been involved in a row with FIFA over alleged government meddling in the sport.


    Mohammad Dadkan, the IRIFF chief, was fired after Iran's weak performance at the World Cup in Germany and the government appointed an official from the state run Physical Education Organisation as his acting replacement.


    FIFA has given Iran until Wednesday to fall into line with its strict rules of non-government intervention in football, and have maintained that Dadkan and his board are still the legitimate heads of soccer in Iran.


    Practice matches


    China will use their game against Iraq as an opportunity for newly-appointed Olympic team coach Ratomir Dujkovic to monitor the side that will represent the country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Like Iran, no European-based players are in the squad.


    Elsewhere, Ivica Osim, the Japanese team coach has called up four new players for their clash against Saudi Arabia, determined to win the game and top Group A.


    Initial doubt surrounded the presence of the Palestine team in Singapore for their match, but the Asian Football Confederation has confirmed that this has been resolved.


    Australia have no qualifier to play and instead take on Ghana in a friendly in England. Several key players are missing through injury including Tim Cahill, Lucas Neill, Mark Viduka and  Harry Kewell.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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