Top teams face tough Asian Cup draw
After a maze of qualifiers, 16 teams go into the 2011 Asian Cup draw
on Friday with heavyweights Australia and Japan facing a tough time
after missing out being seeded.
The 15th Asian Cup, the region's premier football competition, will
be held in gas-rich Qatar from January 7-29 and expectations of a
tournament to remember are high after Iraq memorably won the final in
Jakarta in 2007.
Their feat, beating Saudi Arabia 1-0, was one few predicted as the
war-torn country celebrated its greatest footballing achievement.
They will be back to defend their title, but are a shadow of their
former selves with little going right since that inspirational day,
culminating in FIFA suspending them over political interference in the
sport last November.
The ban was lifted last month but Iraq have had little chance to play
Nevertheless, they start seeded second as champions behind host
nation Qatar, with beaten 2007 finalists Saudi Arabia seeded three and
South Korea four based on the results from the last tournament.
Australia, who made their Asian Cup debut in 2007, go into the hat as
the best-ranked side at 19 in the world but without a top seed, meaning
they could be drawn against fellow World Cup finalists South Korea and
The Socceroos, who struggled to adapt to the conditions during their
debut outing after defecting from Oceania, will be hoping to capitalise
on a decent World Cup, where they are one of four Asian representatives.
While Asia's big guns safely made the draw, none of the joint hosts
from 2007 Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand came through
With Singapore also missing out, Southeast Asia will have no team at
Qatar a stinging indictment of the state of football in the sprawling
China, though, shrugged off a damaging domestic corruption scandal
that rocked the sport to book their place in the finals.
Their qualification from a group that included Syria, Vietnam, and
Lebanon came against the backdrop of former Chinese Football Association
chief Nan Yong and two of his top lieutenants being arrested for bribery
Scores of other football officials, club managers and referees have
disappeared into police custody as authorities and the CFA try to clean
up the mess.
After failing to get past the group stages in 2007 and drawing
serious flak back home, they will be desperate for a friendly draw to
try and re-establish their reputation.
Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Uzbekistan, Syria, Iran and Jordan also battled
through qualifying while Qatar were handed a bye as the hosts.
Saudi Arabia and South Korea went through automatically after
finishing second and third in 2007, while minnows India are in the
tournament as the winners of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup.
``Preparations are in full swing," said Qatar organising committee
chief executive Saud Al Mohannadi.
``The draw, and the tournament, will mark another milestone in
Qatar's ambition to establish itself as a sporting metropolis of the
The draw gets underway at 1900 local time (1600 GMT) at the Aspire
Dome, the largest indoor sports facility in the world, with the teams
slotted into four groups of four.
Five stadiums will be used for the tournament, which kicks off in
January as opposed to the usual July when the heat in too severe.
DOHA, Friday AFP