Palestine draws Afghanistan in WCup qualifying


Palestine will host a World Cup qualifier for the first time after drawing Afghanistan in the opening round of Asian matches in midyear for Brazil 2014.

The game is scheduled for Ramallah on July 3, four days after the first leg in Afghanistan.

Palestine was eliminated four years ago when it could not fulfill an away leg in Singapore because of Israeli travel restrictions.

Four-time qualifier Saudi Arabia was pitted against Hong Kong. The Saudis missed a fifth consecutive finals appearance at the 2010 World Cup after losing a playoff to Bahrain.

Iran, which has competed in the World Cup on three occasions, faces the Maldives, which it defeated 26-0 over two legs in 1998 qualifiers.

Forty-three teams will compete for Asia’s four automatic slots in Brazil, plus an intercontinental playoff place.

In the first round, the 16 lowest-ranked teams play eight home-and-away matches on June 29 and July 3.

The winners join 22 higher-ranked teams in the second round in July.

Those 15 winners then join Japan, South Korea, Australia, North Korea and Bahrain in a group stage.