Asian Cup picks sweet sixteen

Australia to make debut against Oman while title-holders Japan are drawn with Qatar.

    The Asian Cup 2007 is being held in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam 
    "I'm quite happy with the pool we are in," Australian coach Graham Arnold told reporters.

    "Thailand are the highest ranked of the host countries, at 125 ... Oman are a bit of an unknown quantity for us but we know a lot about Iraq. We played them in Australia two years ago and also at the Athens Olympics."

    Arnold added that Australia would demand their top European-based players make themselves available for the tournament.

    'Tough' group

    Japan FA technical director Takeshi Ono, whose team are the defending champions, was coy when asked about his team's chances of making it three titles in a row.
       
    "We are up against some tough teams and we will take it one game at a time."


    Takeshi Ono,
    Japan FA
    technical director

    "We are very happy to be here because there were only 12 qualifying spots open, so it was very tough," said Ono. "We are up against some tough teams and we will take it one game at a time."

    At the ceremony in Kuala Lumpur the two-time winner were drawn against co-hosts Vietnam, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in Group B.

    In Group C, World Cup finalists and Asian Games seeds Iran will play co-hosts Malaysia, Uzbekistan and China.

    Shin Man-ki, an official with South Korea - who are drawn with Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Bahrain - said the Asian Cup would be their main priority in 2007.

    'Main target'
       
    "We haven't won the Asian Cup since 1960 so that is our main target," Shin said. "We are in a very tough group and we don't have a very good record against Saudi Arabia. So it will be a challenge for us."

    Peter Velappan, the outgoing Asian Football Confederation general secretary, had to make a special draw that put Saudi Arabia in Group D as they had to play their preliminary matches in either Malaysia or Indonesia.

    The Saudis were unable to play in Thailand because of diplomatic reasons, according to the AFC, and this also excluded them from Group B in Vietnam because the runners-up from this pool are required to play their quarter-final in Bangkok.

    Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea were all seeded for the draw based on the FIFA world rankings at the end of October.

    The tournament's final will held in Jakarata, Indonesia on July 29 while Bangkok stages the opening ceremony on July 7.
       

    SOURCE: Agencies


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