Kuala Lumpur: AFC Asian Cup 2011 finalists Japan and Australia will renew acquaintances in the Final Round of Asian Qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup after Friday’s official draw saw the two continental giants pooled together in Group B.
Japan were automatically assigned in Position 5 in their group in order to avoid playing a Brazil 2014 qualifier on June 18 due to the continental champions’ participation in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup, which is scheduled to take place in Brazil from June 16 to 30.
Japan and Australia have also been grouped with 2007 AFC Asian Cup winners Iraq, who are aiming to qualify for only the second time following their participation at Mexico 86, Jordan and Oman, both of whom are hoping Brazil 2014 marks their debut in the finals of the global game’s greatest tournament. Jordan were the early pace setters in Group A of the Third Round of Asian Qualifiers but with their place in the Final Round draw assured they tailed off at the end of the campaign and lost their last two games, which included a 3-1 home loss to Iraq that allowed the Iraqis, who are under the helm of former Japan coach Zico, to progress as group winners.
The draw was conducted by Windsor John, Executive Director of the AFC Competitions Department (pictured), alongside two legends of the Asian game in the shape of 71-time capped Japan international Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, who represented the Samurai Blue at the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups and Iran star Mehdi Mahdavikia, a veteran of two World Cups having participated in the 1998 and 2006 tournaments, who made well over a century of appearances during an illustrious 13-year international career with Iran. Iran, three-time World Cup qualifiers having also qualified for the 1978 competition, are in Group A where they are joined by familiar foes Qatar, their opponents the last match of the Third Round qualifying campaign.
Group A also sees outsiders Lebanon – the only one of the ten teams in Friday’s draw to be outside the top 100 of FIFA’s world ranking – once again go head-to-head with Korea Republic, following their two vastly differing matches in the third round of the qualifiers, the first of which saw the 2002 World Cup semi-finalists cruise to a 6-0 win before the Lebanese pulled off a shock 2-1 win in Beirut.
The final team in Group A is Uzbekistan, who ended their Third Round campaign with a 1-0 victory over the Asian champions in Japan to ensure that they joined Iran and 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar as the only undefeated teams in the Final Round of Brazil 2014 qualifiers. The winners and runners-up of the five groups in the third round of qualifiers will be pooled into two groups of five at the Final Round draw, which takes place at AFC House on Friday, and will play each other in home-and-away matches beginning June 3. The top-two teams from these groups will represent Asia at the 2014 FIFA World Cup while the two third-place teams take part in a home-and-away play-off with the victorious side taking on a representative from South America (CONMEBOL) in a two-leg fixture with a ticket to the finals at stake.
FIFA World Cup 2014, Asian Qualifiers – Final Round Draw results
GROUP A: GROUP B:
Korea Republic Australia
Brazil 2014, final qualifying round draw reaction
Kuala Lumpur: Old rivalries will be renewed as the battle for a place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup gathers pace in the Final Round of Asian qualifiers giving ten national team coaches plenty to ponder over the coming weeks and months. But what was the immediate reaction from the representatives at Friday’s official draw?
Shuhrat Maksudov, Assistant Coach
“I wouldn’t say any particular team is strong or weak because every opponent deserves the fullest respect. It doesn’t matter what group we were drawn in as we would approach it in the same way.”
Gary Moretti, Team Manager
“This group is going to be a challenge for us but this is what the boys want and we look forward to meeting our friends from Iraq and it is great also to see Jordan in the group as this is a team we have never played. “The last time we met Oman they beat us but we will try out best to beat them this time round.”
Carlos Queiroz, Head Coach
“The most important thing for us is that we start preparing now for the Final Round because this group has serious candidates for qualification and we cannot afford to relax. We will compete in all games with dignity and to do this there is only one way and that is to prepare well because preparation is the one thing that is completely in our control.”
Zico, Head Coach
“The group is difficult and all the teams are strong but I have great confidence in my team and my players who only want to face strong opponents.”
Tetsu Hirai, Team Manager
“We have a right dream but we cannot be dreamers in this group. It’s definetly a good draw and there is the expectation for us to win in this group and we will happily work hard to meet this expectation.”
Adnan Hamad, Head Coach
“In the third round we had very strong team unity and this gave us a high level of confidence. These two ingredients will again be the key in the Final Round. “We would have preferred not to be drawn with Iraq but we will prepare for them like any other.”
Chun Han-jin, Team Manager
“We have to make sure that we are ready to compete strongly and leave no room for error in each match. We will approach every match as if it were the last match. “Iran, as always, is a strong team and we expect them to be a big challenge.”
Theo Bucker, Head Coach
“This is a very tough group but we will push forward even if Lebanon’s lacks the facilities. You can compare us to the likes of Qatar in terms of facilities but what we do have is our motivation to do well.”
Fahad Al Zaraa – Assistant Coach
“I think Korea and Iran should be considered favourites but that doesn’t mean that Lebanon and Uzbekistan can be considered easy because they will be doing all that they can to win therefore we must be at our very best to qualify.”
By Mavlon Shukurzoda, based on AFC materials.