Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

AFC Asian Cup 2011 Qualifying Round News

Posted in Asian Football, International Football by peterbein on March 3, 2010
Mark Milligan

Australia's Mark Milligan secured qualification for the Socceroos in their 1-0 win over Indonesia

The qualifying rounds for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup were completed on Wednesday and all sixteen teams going to the tournament proper next year are now known. A couple of teams were made to sweat it out during the qualifying process but most of the expected participants got through without too many problems. Six countries didn’t have to go through the main qualification process due to either being hosts (Qatar), finished in the top three in the 2007 AFC Asian Cup (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, South Korea) or had won the AFC Challenge Cup, a tournament for emerging Asian footballing nations, in 2008 (India) or 2010 (North Korea). Therefore ten places had been up for grabs in the qualifiers and “Stoppage Time” takes you through each of the five groups:

GROUP A (1st – JAPAN 6 games/15 points; 2nd – BAHRAIN 6/12; 3rd – Yemen 6/7; 4th – Hong Kong 6/1)

Japan won the group with relative ease only going down to defeat once in six games when they lost away to nearest challengers Bahrain on Matchday Two. Shinji Okazaki was among the top scorers of the qualfying phase with five goals as the Japanese swept the opposition aside. Bahrain, who lost a FIFA World Cup play-off to New Zealand last November, found some consolation in finishing second in this group, a comfortable five points ahead of third-place Yemen. Whipping boys Hong Kong did manage to get a draw at home to Yemen on Matchday Six but were far from a threat, only scoring one goal in qualifying.

GROUP B (1st – AUSTRALIA 6/11; 2nd – KUWAIT 6/9; 3rd – Oman 6/8; 4th – Indonesia 6/3)

Mark Milligan sealed top spot for the Socceroos in their final group game against Indonesia, scoring the only goal for Australia in their 1-0 victory at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. The group didn’t prove to be such a walk in the park for the Aussies but they did enough to qualify in the end. The real tension on Matchday Six was reserved for the Sultan Qaboos Stadium in Muscat as home side Oman still had a chance of qualifying for the second qualification spot from Group B but had to get past the challenge of Kuwait who just needed a draw to qualify. Oman piled on the pressure, especially in the last ten minutes of the game, but the Kuwaitis did all the resolute defending they could in order to hold on to that vital second spot.

GROUP C (1st – UNITED ARAB EMIRATES 4/9; 2nd – UZBEKISTAN 4/9; 3rd – Malaysia 4/0)

India were originally scheduled to be the fourth team in this group but after their success in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup received a bye into next year’s tournament proper. Therefore there were only four games for the three remaining teams and it was never in doubt as to who would qualify given the gulf in class between the two qualifying nations, the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan, and the wooden spoonists Malaysia. The two games involving the top two both ended one-nil to the visitors, in the case of the second encounter on Matchday Six the UAE scored the winning goal two minutes into second half stoppage time. Therefore goal difference in both teams’ games against Malaysia was the deciding factor in who finished where in the group. The UAE’s 5-0 away win over Malaysia in Matchday One proved to be the decisive result as it helped the UAE finish with +6 whilst Uzbekistan ended up close on +4.

GROUP D (1st – SYRIA 6/14; 2nd – CHINA 6/13; 3rd – Vietnam 6/5; 4th – Lebanon 6/1)

Again there weren’t any surprises in this group although China’s campaign did help divert people’s attention from the corruption scandal currently besetting their domestic league. Both Syria and China had qualified when Matchday Six came along but both teams wanted to win their last game and hope the other slipped up in order to finish top of the group. As it happened both teams won easily, Syria defeating Lebanon 4-0 in Aleppo thanks to goals from Mohammad Al Zino, Abdulfatah Al Agha, Jehad Al Hussien and Abdul Razak Al Housain whilst China’s final match against Vietnam was more of a contest, the Chinese winning 2-1 thanks to strikes from Yang Zu and Zhang Linpeng.

GROUP E (1st – IRAN 6/13 ; 2ND – JORDAN 6/8; 3RD – Thailand 6/6; 4TH – Singapore 6/6)

Iran had already qualified for the finals when they played their Matchday Six game at home to Bryan Robson’s Thailand side but the game still held a lot of importance. Thailand were fighting it out for second place along with Jordan and Singapore, who were playing against each other in Amman. Both games, therefore, contained many permutations where one of the other three could qualify for Qatar 2011. Eventually it was the Jordanians who were celebrating having beaten Singapore 2-1 at home. As the game entered stoppage time news had filtered through to the ground that Iran had beaten Thailand 1-0 thanks to a last-minute goal from Javad Nekounam.

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