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So last night the final rankings were released prior to the draw for the 2nd round of World and Asian Cup qualifying.
This is how the nations fall. This time, I’ve included their position in the FIFA Rankings, as well as their movements since the March rankings.
|Rank||Pot A||Pot B||Pot C||Pot D||Pot E|
|1||Iran (40, +2)||Saudi Arabia (95, +4)||Afghanistan (135, +2)||Timor Leste (152, +33)||Malaysia (164, -11)|
|2||Japan (50, +3)||Oman (97, -1)||The Philippines (139, -11)||Kyrgyzstan (153, -3)||Hong Kong (167, -10)|
|3||South Korea (57, -1)||Qatar (99, +10)||Palestine (140, 0)||North Korea (157, -8)||Bangladesh (167, -5)|
|4||Australia (63, +2)||Jordan (103, -2)||The Maldives (141, -8)||Myanmar (158, -5)||Yemen (176, +5)|
|5||United Arab Emirates (68, +1)||Bahrain (108, -4)||Thailand (142, 0)||Turkmenistan (159, -15)||Guam (175, -8)|
|6||Uzbekistan (73, -1)||Vietnam (125, +5)||Tajikistan (143, -2)||Indonesia (159, -3)||Laos (178, -8)|
|7||China (82, +1)||Syria (126, +26)||Lebanon (144, +2)||Singapore (162, -9)||Cambodia (179, +2)|
|8||Iraq (86, +11)||Kuwait (127, -2)||India (147, +26)||Bhutan (163, +46)||Chinese Taipei (179, +9)|
The biggest movers were Bhutan moving a massive 46 positions from 209th to 163rd. This resulted in them landing in the bottom of Pot D, rather than in Pot E which is probably where they should be given their minnow status. Other big improvers were India (up 26 spots), Timor Leste (up 33 spots) and Syria (up 26 spots).
I’m going to stick to the groups that I have made in the past for consistency.
Group A = A1, B5, C7, D8, E1 – Iran, Bahrain, Lebanon, Bhutan and Malaysia
Talk about an eye-opening experience for the people of Bhutan! To get the giants of Iran marching into their tiny stadium will be a fantastic experience for them. Similarly, Bahrain and Lebanon will give them enormous football lessons. Given that I am based in China, I’m looking at the game against Malaysia (either in Malaysia or Bhutan) as one to attend, because I think it would be a fascinating game to attend on a personal note. If I could get my hands on a Bhutan strip, it would make a brilliant addition to my collection as well. In terms of progression from this group, Iran is a certainty, but I’m not convinced that Bahrain will be among the better 2nd placed finishers.
Group B = A3, B3, C3, D2, E6 – South Korea, Qatar, Palestine, Kyrgyzstan and Laos
I’m going to guess that Uli Stielike would be really pissed off with this draw. That’s two trips to the Middle East and one trip to Central Asia. At least he has one away trip to nearby Laos. It doesn’t help that most of his squad is currently based in South Korea as well. I don’t see this as a big problem for one of the strongest countries in the AFC, they should walk this group without too many dramas. Qatar should finish as one of the better second place finishers.
Group C = A4, B6, C2, D7, E4 – Australia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore and Yemen
As an Australian living in southern China, I nearly got the perfect away trip group. I was desperately hoping for Hong Kong instead of Yemen, but Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore are all short flights away from me. I would expect an enormous traveling squad to Singapore given the ease of which to get in to Singapore and the sheer volume of flights from a variety of airlines. There’s a great article by good friend of mine, Lincoln Bertelli about the sports infrastructure in Singapore that you can read here. Vietnam will be an interesting proposition for Australia and I suspect that the away ends for the Vietnam, Philippines and Singapore games will be well attended. The Yemen game will be a walk in the park. Australia to win the group easily.
Group D = A7, B1, C5, D5, E5 – China, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkmenistan and Guam
With Iraq moving into Pot A, it took the China vs Iraq match out of the equation but it brought back an Asian Cup match which had a bit of spice to it. China has been a very good side recently and I expect them to do well. I’m hoping they play at least one of their home games in southern China so I can go to it, otherwise I’ll go down to Thailand for that game. China and Saudi Arabia will qualify out of that group.
Group E = A2, B7, C6, D1, E3 – Japan, Syria, Tajikistan, Timor Leste and Bangladesh
I would encourage Australians to try and get to a Timor Leste game if possible. Let’s be honest, I can see friends like Les Street making the pilgrimage up there because they can say that they have done it. Their qualification for this stage is a big event in its own right and as a football fan, I think Australians should support it if possible. Having said that, they are going to be in for a couple of kickings from the likes of Japan and Syria. Japan will qualify top of the group but keep an eye on Syria to maybe surprise as one of the better 2nd place finishers.
Group F = A8, B4, C1, D3, E7 – Iraq, Jordan, Afghanistan, North Korea and Cambodia
Well, if this group was going to be given a name, it would have to be the Group of War, or something like that. I saw the Cambodians play last month and I feel that they could finish as high as 3rd in the group if they are organised and stay strong. This could be a dreadful group with very little known about the Afghan or North Korean teams. Iraq and Jordan should qualify out of this group without too many dramas, but where the games will be played is a completely different question.
Group G = A6, B2, C8, D6, E8 – Uzbekistan, Oman, India, Indonesia and Chinese Taipei
Now, if I get the time, I might go over to Taiwan to catch some of their games (with all these games I want to see, my girlfriend is going to get seriously pissed off with me. Thank goodness WordPress is blocked in China). Australians can also get up to Indonesia to see some games there which could be entertaining in its own right – just a note for bogan Australians though, the stadium will not be in Bali, because they haven’t got one there. You have to travel outside of Kuta to get to the stadium, which means you have to meet real Indonesians. Uzbekistan are traditionally a strong team so they should finish top of the group and I would expect Oman to be one of the better second place finishers.
Group H = A5, B8, C4, D4, E2 – United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, the Maldives, Myanmar and Hong Kong.
Ahh, Hong Kong. This was the country (yes, that’s a debate for China, but the rest of the world call it a country) that I wanted Australia to get in my draw, but this is still a great result for me. Because I live in Shenzhen, I can easily hop the border to get into Hong Kong to see these games. The UAE and Kuwait offer good games to watch at the Hong Kong National Stadium (which I haven’t been to yet, so this should be fun). The Maldives are something of an interesting quantity, sitting in the middle of the AFC rankings and I think Hong Kong could finish 4th in the group ahead of Myanmar. United Arab Emirates should top the group.
Group Winners – Iran, Japan, South Korea, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, China, Iraq
4 Best Runner-ups – Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Jordan
4 Worst Last Place (a tricky proposition, given the big movements by previously lower ranked nations) – Guam, Laos, Cambodia, Chinese Taipei
The draw takes place on Tuesday night, Australian time.
Let me know what you think in the comments.