KUALA LUMPUR: The prospect of Qatar, host of the 2022 World Cup, treaching the finals for the firsty time, in Brazil in 2014, has been raised by the draw for the fourth and climactic round of the Asian qualifying compet8ition.
The region’s generally accepted top two, Japan and Australia, have been drawn together in the other Group B in a repeat of the 2011 Asian Cup final which the Japanese won 1-0 after extra time.
The other nations drawn alongside Qatar in Group A were South Korea, Iran, Uzbekistan and surprise qualifiers Lebanon.
South Korea will be favourites to take one of the two World Cup places available from Group A with Carlos Queiroz’s Iran the initial second favourites.
Queiroz, former Portugal and Real Madrid coach, said: “We have a very good team and good players but the most important thing now is to get the preparation plan right.”
Yet Qatar held Iran to two draws in the previous round while Uzbekistan, semi-finalists at the 2011 Asian Cup, headed Japan in the third round group.
Group B will see Japan and Australia as favourites for the top two spots despite facing three long away trips to Iraq, Jordan and Oman.
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.