The draw for the opening two rounds of Asian Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ took place on Monday at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur. Despite being without the continent's top five teams, who are waiting at the third round stage with a bye, the line-up for the preliminary stages, running from 8 October to 18 November 2007, promise excitement and enthralling football for the 38 teams and fans across Asia.
The draw for the opening two rounds threw up some intriguing pairings. While the newly crowned Asian champions Iraq have been pitted against Pakistan, central Asian power Uzbekistan will cross swords with Chinese Taipei, a team that are 100 places lower in FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking.
Bahrain, who went within a whisker of qualifying for Germany 2006 will open their qualifying campaign against Malaysia. China, determined to make up for their failure to reach the previous FIFA World Cup, square up with neighbours Myanmar in the opening round.
The most enticing pairing is Vietnam against the United Arab Emirates. The UAE, hoping to emulate their feat of 17 years ago when they qualified for world football's showpiece event in Italy, will field a formidable side spearheaded by Ismail Marta. However, Vietnam have recently defeated the west Asians 2-0 at the AFC Asian Cup.
A different format
This preliminary campaign sees Asia employ a different format from the previous editions with its teams battling it out for the 4.5 berths in a four-round qualifying process which takes place between 8 November 2007 and 9 September 2009.
The seeding for all the 43 countries in the Asian Zone is based on the results from the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ and earlier qualifying rounds. As a result, Australia lead a top five that also features Korea Republic, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Iran.
While the top five teams have a bye until the third round, the remaining 38 teams ranked from 6th to 43rd have to go through a tough knockout opening round, with teams ranked from 6-24 doing battles against those ranked from 25-43.
From the 19 teams that emerge as winners from the opening round, the lowest eight based on the ranking have to lock horns against each other in the second round while the other eleven join the five highest ranked nations in the third round.
The third round sees 20 teams, including the four winners from the previous round, divided into five groups of four with the top two finishers advancing.
Then comes the decisive final round, which sees the last ten split into two groups of five. The top two teams of each group will automatically qualify for South Africa 2010.
The two third placed finishers from each group play in a two-legged home and away play-off. The winners will play the OFC winners in a two legged playoff for a FIFA World Cup berth.
Asian Zone Qualifying
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
1. Pakistan - Iraq
2. Uzbekistan - Chinese Taipei
3. Thailand - Macau
4. Sri Lanka - Qatar
5. China - Myanmar
6. Bhutan - Kuwait
7. Kyrgyzstan - Jordan
8. Vietnam - UAE
9. Bahrain - Malaysia
10. Timor Leste - Hong Kong
11. Syria - Afghanistan
12. Yemen - Maldives
13. Bangladesh - Tajikistan
14. Mongolia - DPR Korea
15. Oman - Nepal
16. Palestine - Singapore
17. Lebanon - India
18. Cambodia - Turkmenistan
19. Guam - Indonesia
Matches will be played on 8 October 2007 and 28 October 2007.
1. Seed 17 - Seed 14
2. Seed 16 - Seed 12
3. Seed 19 - Seed 15
4. Seed 18 - Seed 13
Matches will be played on 9 and 18 November 2007.
Matches will be played between 6 February 2008 and 10 September 2008.
Matches will be played between 15 October 2008 and 9 September 2009.
1. Australia, 2. Korea Republic, 3. Saudi Arabia, 4. Japan, 5. Iran, 6. Bahrain, 7. Uzbekistan, 8. Kuwait, 9. DPR Korea, 10. China, 11. Jordan, 12. Iraq, 13. Lebanon, 14. Oman, 15. UAE, 16. Qatar, 17. Syria, 18. Palestine, 19. Thailand, 20. Turkmenistan, 21. Tajikistan, 22. Indonesia, 23. Hong Kong, 24. Yemen , 25. Vietnam, 26. Kyrgyzstan, 27. Maldives, 28. India, 29. Singapore, 30. Sri Lanka, 31. Malaysia, 32. Chinese Taipei, 33. Bangladesh, 34. Macau, 35. Pakistan, 36. Afghanistan, 37. Mongolia, 38. Guam, 39. Nepal, 40. Cambodia, 41. Bhutan, 42. Myanmar, 43. Timor Leste