Wed, Nov 29, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Iran enters Asian Games soccer clash as seeded team

AP , DOHA, QATAR

Members of the North Korean Asian Games team are led through the Athletes' Village during a welcoming ceremony in Doha, Qatar, yesterday. The Asian Games will officially get under way with the Opening Ceremony on Friday. Taiwan's mens volleyball team yesterday defeated the Maldives 3-0 after winning their opening match 3-1 against Kuwait on Monday.

PHOTO: AP

Iran entered the Asian Games soccer tournament as a seeded team after FIFA temporarily lifted the defending champion's competition ban.

Iran will face India, Hong Kong and the Maldives in Group D after the tournament's second round was redrawn on Monday.

Iran's return to the tournament is a blow for qualifier Iraq, which replaced its rival neighbor as the Pool D seed in Sunday's original draw. Iraq will now contest Pool E with China, Oman and Malaysia.

Soccer world governing body FIFA suspended Iran from international soccer last week for failing to reinstate its elected president, Mohammed Dadgan, and comply with FIFA statutes regarding the independence of member associations.

The reinstatement of Iran, which won the Asian Games title in 1974, 1990, 1998 and 2002, means four teams from the eight-team qualifying first round advance to the main draw, with Syria and Kyrgystan replacing Yemen and Turkmenistan, who withdrew from the tournament last week.

Under the revised draw, Kyrgystan now plays Thailand, Kuwait and Palestine in Pool C, while Syria joins Pool F, where it will face 2002 silver medalist Japan, North Korea and Pakistan.

Jordan joins Iraq as the other first round qualifier and meets host Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan in Group A.

Group B remains unchanged from the original schedule and includes South Korea, Bahrain, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Tajikistan, which was drawn in Pool A last Wednesday, is now out of the competition.

The Asian Football Confederation's official Web site said that Iran's reinstatement followed an undertaking by the country's Physical Education Organization that it would comply with FIFA's statutes.

The lifting of the ban applies only to the Iran under-23 team and is exclusively for the Asian Games.

"The suspension for all other international activities will remain valid," FIFA boss Sepp Blatter was quoted as saying from the Soccerex conference in Dubai.

The Asian Games second round began yesterday, with the 24 teams split into six groups of four. The top team from each group, along with the top two runners-up, will advance to the quarter-finals.

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