The managerial and coaching staff of the ten top teams in Asia shed light on Asia's qualifying final round draw for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, held at AFC House on 27 June.
John Boultbee (Head of High Performance, Football Federation
This is a group we are looking forward to. Obviously Australia versus Japan will be the blockbuster, and we will be aiming to win both at home and away. It is good for us to be playing Japan in the last game, and this provides us with some advantage, no matter how difficult our situation may end up. The away matches against Qatar and Bahrain won't be a problem for our overseas-based players, as the distance between Europe and West Asia is not that far. Uzbekistan were impressive in the previous stage with their European style which, however, is something which suits us fine.
Kohzo Tashima (General Secretary of Japanese Football
The two groups look equally difficult, but we hope to qualify as one of the top two teams and avoid a playoff, which is very risky. We don't think Australia is our only tough opponent, as Uzbekistan will make it tough for us with their physical play. Qatar went through one of the hardest groups, with Australia, Asian champions Iraq and China, and they have shown their mental strength in tough games, so we can't afford to underestimate them. Bahrain defeated us in a qualifier in the last round, and we can expect the games against them to be tough. But we have our own strengths, and we are confident of going through.
Abdulaziz Al-Ashraf (Member of Bahrain Football Association Board of Directors): We are aiming to qualify from this group alongside Australia. Japan and Australia are unquestionably the group favorites, but we won't give up without a fight. In the previous stage we finished runners-up behind Japan, so we don't mind finishing second again this time around, because it means we will book an automatic spot at the World Cup.
Vadim Abramov (Uzbekistan National Team Manager):
The match schedule is not good for us, as we have to play our opening game away against Qatar, while our opponents in the next game, Australia, receive a bye on Matchday 1. I have to say, these two opening games against both of them are crucial for us. I am glad to be facing Australia and Japan, who play European style football. To prepare against them, we will arrange some friendlies with European teams. We know Bahrain and Qatar very well, as we have played against them frequently. We are not afraid to play against any team; every game will be 50-50.
Huh Jung-Moo (Head coach of Korea Republic National Team):
There have no pushovers in our group. Besides, there are three Middle Eastern teams, which means we will face tough trips. But we shouldn't be disappointed to be in a tough group, nor relieved to be in an easy one. We must play as if every game is the final, in this fourth round. I think that we will reach the World Cup finals if we play to our potential.
Chung Hae Soung (Assistant coach of Korea Republic National
Both Iran and Saudi Arabia represent tough opponents for us and besides, traveling a long way to West Asia will be gruelling for us. And we must be fully prepared against Korea DPR, who proved such a difficult side for us in the third qualifying round.
Ali Daei (Head coach of Iran National Team):
Compared to Group A, I personally think Group B is much tougher. All five teams are equally strong, so we have to prepare well for every match. To get the best results we need to field our best players, and we will call up our overseas-based players if they can be ready in time. I expect full commitment from everyone. Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia are two traditional powers in Asia, but Korea DPR could be potentially dangerous for us, given their performance in the third round; they didn't concede a single goal in all six matches.
Abdullah Al Jarbou (Saudi Arabia National (A) Team
This is a marathon competition, and there will be dramatic changes and unforeseen events during the campaign, so every team will have to readjust their competition strategy at times. I am happy that we have avoided Japan and Australia. Our goal is to qualify for the World Cup for the fifth time in a row.