Australia, Japan grouped in World Cup qualifying
Australia will continue its fierce rivalry with Japan after the
regional powers were drawn together in the final round of Asian
qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Australia and Japan were drawn in Group B during a ceremony
Friday at the Asian Football Confederation’s headquarters in
Malaysia, along with fellow World Cup veteran Iraq, Jordan and
Group A comprises 2002 World Cup semifinalist South Korea, Iran,
Lebanon, Uzbekistan and 2022 host Qatar.
The top two teams from each group will advance to the World Cup
finals, while the two third-placed teams playoff for a further spot
in an intercontinental contest with a fifth-place team from South
The home-and-away matches are scheduled from June 3, 2012 to
June 18, 2013.
”It’s going to be a tough group, particularly the road games,”
Australia coach Holger Osieck said. ”We know what is at stake now
and we know what we have to deliver.
”We have to be right there from the start, from minute
Australia’s first match is June 8 in Oman, the only nation to
beat them in the previous qualifying group (1-0), which they topped
with five wins from six matches, the last against Saudi Arabia in
Melbourne earlier this month.
Osieck said he was confident the Socceroos would emerge from
their eight-match, year-long final phase with one of the two top
spots, guaranteeing a berth in their third consecutive World
Japan technical director Hiromi Hara was equally confident,
saying his team would ”100 percent qualify.”
”We know it’s not easy because this is the final round, but we
are prepared and we have talent,” he said.
Japan has made four World Cup appearances since 1998, reaching
the second round in 2002 and 2010.
Iraq coach Zico conceded that Japan and Australia would be
favorites to top their group, but stressed that his team cannot be
”The upcoming matches will be tough as there are many strong
teams,” he said. ”We will be working hard. I will be using all my
experience and skills to help coach the team to hopefully make it
to the World Cup in Brazil.”
Iraq has only made one World Cup appearance in 1986.
In Group A, South Korea’s team administrative manager Chun
Hanjin said he believes his team can top the group despite the
tough battles ahead.
”Either Group A or B doesn’t matter to us, both are equally
strong and will give us a hard time,” he said. ”Even though we
don’t have to face Japan, we still have four other strong teams to
contend with, and so we have to prepare well for it.”
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz predicted the matches would be ”very
”If we are well-prepared, I am very confident Iran will have a
chance to qualify,” he said. ”We have a good team, good
Associated Press writer Sean Yoong contributed to this