Wed, Nov 15, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Final two Asian Cup places up for grabs


After Kuwait gave themselves a huge morale boost with a 10-0 hammering of hapless Taiwan in a friendly last week, they join Uzbekistan today in the final qualifying games for the 2007 Asian Cup finals as hot favorites to grab the two slots still available, at the expense of Hong Kong and Bahrain.

In other matches today, Taiwan take on Syria, Yemen play India and Jordan battle it out with Oman.

Many of the 14 sides already through to the event co-hosted by Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia will use their matches as last-minute preparations for the Asian Games in Doha next month.

Kuwait need to win or draw against surprise 2004 semi-finalists Bahrain to ensure their passage while Hong Kong must pray Uzbekistan lose in Tashkent to Qatar and that they beat Bangladesh at home.

The Uzbeks, coached by Valeri Nepomniatchi, who shot to fame in 1990 when he led Cameroon to the quarter-finals at the World Cup, should have enough in their armory to at least draw with Qatar and end Hong Kong's hopes.

But their task will be made more difficult by Qatar being host of the Asian Games and wanting a win going into the tournament.

South Korean coach Pim Verbeek plans to use his team's final qualifier against Iran as a key training exercise for the Asian Games, where they are aiming to lift their first Asian football title since 1986.

He named a squad made up largely of players who will participate at the event. None of his European-based stars is included due to club commitments.

Their match in Tehran has added spice with reports that the former head of Iran's football federation has formally resigned his post in an apparent bid to end a row with FIFA over alleged government meddling in the sport.

Mohammad Dadkan and his board were fired after Iran's disappointing performance at last summer's World Cup in Germany and the government appointed an official from the state run Physical Education Organization as his acting replacement.

FIFA have given Iran until today to fall into line with its strict rules of non-government intervention in football, maintaining that Dadkan and his board remained the legitimate heads of soccer in Iran.

China will use their game against Iraq in Changsha as an opportunity for newly-appointed Olympic team coach Ratomir Dujkovic to cast an eye over the side that will represent the country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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