Sunday, January 16, 2011

Asian Cup wide open going into final group matches

DOHA, Qatar —The Asian Cup is wide open going into the final group matches, with only Iran having qualified and most teams still able to claim one of the remaining seven spots in the knockout stage.

Group A leader Uzbekistan plays China on Sunday and host Qatar takes on winless Kuwait with all four teams still in the running to qualify.

Jordan coach Adnan Hamed, whose team needs a win or a draw against Syria on Monday to qualify from Group B, said the 16-team event was “the strongest tournament in AFC history."

AFC competitions director Tokuaki Suzuki said he was satisfied that leading teams like South Korea, Japan and Australia had not enjoyed an easy route to the quarterfinals, with the exception of Australia’s 4-0 win against India.

“It’s a good thing because we can recognize there have been very competitive matches," Suzuki said. “The level of Asia is being raised, the standards for Asia are very high."

In Group A, Uzbekistan and Qatar will qualify if the Uzbeks win or draw and the Qataris win. If both games end in draws, Uzbekistan goes through as group winner and Qatar advances since it beat China in an earlier match.

If the Uzbeks win and Kuwait beats Qatar,Uzbekistan will advance while the second place spot comes down to goal difference. A win for China and Qatar means that both spots will be determined by goal difference while a China victory and a Qatar loss or draw means China and Uzbekistan qualify.

In Group B, it is far less complicated. Group leader Japan qualifies if it wins or draws against winless Saudi Arabia which is already out. Jordan, tied with Japan at 4 points, qualifies if it wins or draws against Syria while the Syrians can qualify with a victory. Should Japan lose, Syria and Jordan could both qualify depending on the margin of a Syrian win and the margin of Japan’s defeat.

In Group C, South Korea qualifies with a win or draw against India—which is already out—or as a result of Bahrain losing or drawing against Australia. Bahrain can qualify if it beats Australia while the Socceroos qualify if they win or draw against Bahrain.

In Group D, Iran has already qualified for the quarterfinals. Iraq can earn the second spot if it wins or draws against North Korea. The North Koreans can advance as long as their margin of victory is greater than the United Arab Emirates which needs to beat Iran. - AP

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