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Japan, Australia drawn in same group
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 10 - 03 - 2012

Japan will face Australia in a repeat of the 2011 Asian Cup final after the duo were drawn together in a tricky World Cup qualifying fourth round group Friday.
Japan defeated Australia 1-0 after extra time in the final in Qatar last year to become Asian champions. The pair will be favorites to finish first and second in Group B and reach the 2014 World Cup Finals in Brazil but they will face a difficult challenge and three long away trips to West Asian teams.
Also in Group B are Iraq, which beat Australia en route to winning the 2007 Asian Cup, fast-improving Jordan, which came within a minute of beating Japan at the Asian Cup last year and Oman, which advanced to the fourth round at the expense of regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia.
South Korea was drawn in what looks a more favorable Group A alongside Iran, Qatar, Uzbekistan and surprise package Lebanon, which claimed a shock 2-1 win over the Koreans in the third round which led to Cho Kwang-rae being sacked as coach.
“It's fate or surprise to have the Asia Cup winners playing with Australia again,” Socceroos team manager Gary Moretti told reporters at Asian Football Confederation house.
South Korea, now coached by Choi Kang-hee, will be favorite to take one of the two World Cup places available from Group A with Carlos Queiroz's Iran expected to join it as the second seeds in the pool.
Uzbekistan, semifinalists at the 2011 Asian Cup, should provide a stern test having qualified for the fourth round top of a pool involving Japan and boasting a squad full of technically sound players led by twice AFC player-of-the year Server Djeparov.
Qatar, 2022 World Cup hosts, could also challenge for a first finals appearance having held Iran to two draws in the previous round.
The two third place sides from each group will face off in a playoff, with the winner of that two-legged tie then playing the fifth-placed team from South American qualifying. The victory of the two-match inter-confederation playoff will also gain a place at the finals in Brazil.
FIFA to quiz ref, players
over 10-0 World Cup win
FIFA will interview the match referee and players during a probe of Bahrain's “unusual” 10-0 win over Indonesia in a World Cup qualifier.
FIFA says it is “proceeding with this investigation as a priority” from security division offices in Jordan and Malaysia.
Lebanese referee Andre El Haddad sent off Indonesia's goalkeeper in the second minute and awarded Bahrain four penalties.
FIFA says it is studying betting activity on the Feb. 29 match in Manama. Bahrain's win raised suspicion because it trailed Qatar by three points and nine goals in group standings. Qatar drew 2-2 in Iran to advance.

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