Japan gets tough draw for Beijing qualifying

Japan has got a tough draw in the final round of Asian qualifying for next year's Beijing Olympics.

updated: June 16, 2007 06:32 IST
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Kuala Lumpur:

The Japanese team will have its credentials put to the test after joining Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Vietnam in Group C at Wednesday's draw for the final round of Asian qualifying for next year's Beijing Olympics.

Japan was the only team to finish the second round of qualifiers undefeated, while Saudi Arabia beat out Australia for top spot in its second-round group and Vietnam finished ahead of Lebanon on goal difference.

Iraq, which finished fourth at the 2004 Athens Olympics, was drawn with North Korea, Lebanon and Australia in Group A, while Group B includes South Korea, Bahrain, Syria and Uzbekistan.

Iraq lost 1-0 to Italy in the bronze medal match at Athens after defeating Australia to get there.

Tetsu Hirai, a Japan Football Association official, said while the group will be a tough one for Japan, playing Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the Middle East should not be a disadvantage.

"I think we can adjust to the environment there well," Hirai said.

South Korean representative Kang Sin-woo was less optimistic about his team's ability to cope with the Middle Eastern conditions.

"Traveling to the Middle East will be an obstacle to the players' performance," Kang said, nominating Bahrain as South Korea's stiffest opposition.

Australia is featuring in its first Asian Olympic qualifying tournament after joining the Asian Football Confederation this year.

Vietnam's performance in qualifying this week prompted senior team coach Alfred Riedl to include 12 under-23 players in his squad for next month's Asian Cup.

The final round of qualifying will run from August 22 to November 21, with the top team from each of the three groups heading to the Beijing Olympics starting August, 2008.