China's tie with Iraq takes center stage in today's Asian Cup
qualifying matches, while the region's top teams concentrate on
their World Cup preparations.
Asian champion Japan held Bosnia to a 2-2 draw in a friendly in
Dortmund yesterday while Saudi Arabia is also in Germany for what
will be a stiff test against Portugal.
Naohiro Takahara and Hidetoshi Nakata were on target for Japan
while Zvjezdan Misimovic and Emir Spahic scored for Bosnia.
South Korea faces first-time World Cup qualifiers Angola in
Seoul with Iran at home to Costa Rica.
Australia, which qualified for the World Cup while representing
Oceania but has since joined the Asian Football Confederation, is
training in the Netherlands.
With the top sides given permission to postpone their scheduled
2007 Asian Cup qualifiers, the Group E clash between Iraq and China
is the pick of nine remaining ties.
All five of Asia's World Cup qualifiers won their opening
matches last week.
China, whose failure to qualify for the World Cup caused
shockwaves throughout the region, beat Palestine 2-0 in their
opening game in Guangzhou last week.
Iraq was upset 0-2 away in Singapore and can ill afford another
defeat against 2004 Asian Cup runner-up China on neutral territory
in the United Arab Emirates.
China is equally determined and coach Zhu Guanghu has promised
victory in Al Ain after calling up Europe-based players Shao Jiayi
and Shi Jun.
"There is no way we will lose," Zhu said.
There have already been two coaching casualties after just one
round of Asian Cup qualifiers with Bahrain's Luka Peruzovic and
Oman's Srecko Juricic axed after losing starts.
Bahrain was beaten 1-3 by Australia last week while Oman lost
its Group C opener away to the Emirates.
Both sides will be anxious to bounce back with Bahrain
travelling to Kuwait in Group D and Oman at home to Group C leader
The 2007 Asian Cup finals will be co-hosted by Malaysia,
Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Elsewhere in the region, South Korea coach Dick Advocaat said
yesterday form was the only factor in picking his squad for the
World Cup finals in Germany.
Speaking ahead of a World Cup warm-up game against Angola today,
Advocaat said players would have to perform consistently well at
club level to assure themselves a ticket to Germany this
"We always say that the coach doesn't make the lineup, players
make the lineup. If a player shows the quality, he will play," he
said. "Our strategy is not about players or about individuals. It's
South Korea has been drawn in Group G with France, Togo and
Advocaat's squad of 24 for the Angola match includes several
Europe-based players such as Park Ji-sung of Manchester United and
Lee Young-pyo of Tottenham.
But it does not include fan favorite Ahn Jung-hwan, who scored
some key goals when South Korea reached the semifinals on home soil
(Shanghai Daily March 1, 2006)