14 tough matches await Qantas Under 23's
The Qantas Under 23s will have to overcome at least one of perennial regional heavyweights Iran or Saudi Arabia simply to reach the final stage of qualifying for the Beijing Men’s Olympic Football Tournament, following today’s draw in Singapore.
The Qantas Under 23s will have to overcome at least one of perennial regional heavyweights Iran or Saudi Arabia simply to reach the final stage of qualifying for the Beijing Men-s Olympic Football Tournament, following today-s draw in Singapore.
Australia, who have appeared in each Men-s Olympic Football Tournament since 1988, as well as a historic appearance at the 1956 Melbourne games, will be required to navigate through an unprecedented 14 matches if they are to qualify for Beijing.
“It is a very, very difficult draw and there won-t be an easy game throughout the entire campaign,” said Qantas Under 23s coach Graham Arnold speaking from Singapore, where he was in attendance for today-s draw.
“It is however a great challenge and it is one that the players and myself will be looking forward to.
“As we learnt recently in Kuwait with the senior team, away matches in Asia can present significant difficulties so the preparation has to be thorough if we are to give the team a good chance of qualifying.
“Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are regular qualifiers for the World Cup so they alone in the second round will be a massive challenge but this kind of competition is part of the benefits in moving into the Asian Confederation.”
Australia-s campaign will commence with a home and away preliminary qualifying play-off against Chinese Taipei next February.
The winner will progress to Group D of Round 2 qualification alongside Iran, Saudi Arabia, and either Jordan or Kyrgyzstan.
The 24-team second round qualifying, which has been split into six groups of four, runs through February 28 to June 6, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the final round to be played in three groups of four teams each.
The final home and away round will be held from August 22 - November 21, with the three group winners representing Asia at the Beijing Olympic Games.
The Qantas Under 23s were eliminated by Iraq at the quarter final stage in 2004, and achieved their best finish of fourth in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympic Games.
Qantas Under 23s path to Beijing
Round 1 (Qualification Round) 20 nations contest knock-out home and away Australia v Chinese Taipei February 7 & 14
Round 2 (Qualification Round) 24 nations in six groups of four, home and away. First and second in each group qualify for next round
Australia's group Group D: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Kyrgyzstan, Australia or Chinese Taipei
Remaining Groups Group A: Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Singapore or Pakistan Group B: Japan, Malaysia, Syria, Hong Kong or Bangladesh Group C: Oman, Lebanon, Vietnam or Afghanistan, Indonesia or Maldives Group E: Iraq, DPR Korea, Turkmenistan or Thailand, Myanmar or India Group F: Korea Republic, UAE, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, Yemen or Palestine
Round 2 Match dates February 28, March 14, March 28, April 18, May 16, June 6
Round 3 (Final Round) 12 nations in three groups of four, home and away. First in each group qualifies for 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Round 3 Match dates August 22, September 8, September 12, October 17, November 17, November 21