Asia's top ten teams will discover the hurdles they have to overcome for a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ when the draw for the final qualifying round is staged at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur on Friday 27 June.
The teams will be divided into two groups of five. The top two in each group will automatically progress to South Africa 2010, while the two third-placed teams will lock horns in a playoff, with the winners battling against the Oceania representatives for a spot at the global showpiece.
Australia, in their first FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign as an Asian team, are the top seeds, because the ranking is based on performances at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany. As a result, coach Pim Verbeek's Socceroos will avoid second-seeded Korea Republic, who have been dominant in Asia's qualifying competition over the past two decades, qualifying for every FIFA World Cup finals since Mexico 1986.
Despite escaping the Taeguk Warriors, Verbeek assured the Australian media that he would not be taking any opposition lightly. "I think every team will give us problems," said the Dutchman, "Even if you play Uzbekistan away or the [United Arab] Emirates away, or Iran away or Japan away, all will be difficult." Korea Republic coach Huh Jung-Moo agreed: "Every team is difficult. There is no easy team [in the final ten]."
Based on the aforementioned ranking system, the ten teams will be divided into four different pots based on ranking as follows:
POT 1: 1 Australia, 2 Korea Republic
POT 2: 3 Iran, 4 Japan/Saudi Arabia
POT 3: 5 Japan/Saudi Arabia, 6 Bahrain
POT 4: 7 Uzbekistan, 8 DPR Korea, 9 UAE, 10 Qatar
There will be a preliminary draw to separate Japan and Saudi Arabia, who are currently equal fourth in the ranking scheme. The first ball drawn will be put into Pot 2 as the fourth-ranked team, and the other will be placed in Pot 3 as the fifth.
Then the draw proper begins:
Step 1: Teams to be drawn out of Pot 4. First ball drawn into position A5; second ball drawn into position B5, third ball drawn into position A4; fourth ball drawn into position B4.
Step 2: Teams to be drawn out of Pot 3. First ball drawn into position A3; second ball drawn into position B3.
Step 3: Teams to be drawn out of Pot 2. First ball drawn into position A2; second ball drawn into position B2.
Step 4: Teams to be drawn out of Pot 1. First ball drawn into position A1; second ball drawn into position B1.
Match schedule (Tentative):
(The ten teams, divided into two groups of five, will play home-and-away. Home teams given first:)
Matchday 1: 6 September 2008 - 3 v 2, 5 v 4 (1 bye)
MD 2: 10 September 2008 - 4 v 1; 5 v 3 (2 bye)
MD 3: 15 October 2008 - 1 v 5; 2 v 4 (3 bye)
MD 4: 19 November 2008 - 5 v 2; 3 v 1 (4 bye)
MD 5: 11 February 2009 - 4 v 3; 2 v 1 (5 bye)
MD 6: 28 March 2009 - 2 v 3, 4 v 5 (1 bye)
MD 7: 1 April 2009 - 1 v 4; 3 v 5 (2 bye)
MD 8: 6 June 2009 - 5 v 1; 4 v 2 (3 bye)
MD 9: 10 June 2009 - 2 v 5; 1 v 3 (4 bye)
MD 10: 17 June 2009 - 3 v 4; 1 v 2 (5 bye)