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SBD Global/November 28, 2013/International Football

Asian Football Confederation Looks To Incorporate Oceania Into Qualifying Equation

Australia's national team, the Socceroos, "could find themselves battling rivals New Zealand on the road to future World Cups with the Asian Football Confederation looking at ways to incorporate Oceania into the AFC's qualifying equation," according to Ben McKay of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said that the two groups "were working on a proposal to combine Asia's four-and-a-half World Cup qualifying slots with Oceania's half spot." New Zealand football figures "have sought the country's direct inclusion in the AFC," but Salman said that it "would be better to combine Asia and Oceania's World Cup quotas." Salman: "We had the Australians in but I think we should look at how can we combine our slot together" (SMH, 11/27). The AFP reported Asia has four automatic World Cup places plus a ''half-slot'' -- a spot in an intercontinental playoff -- while "only one Oceania team is capable of reaching the tournament," also via a playoff. Asia "has the world’s biggest confederation with 46 members, while Oceania groups 11 island teams spread across a wide swathe of the Pacific" (AFP, 11/27).

EAST AND WEST: The AFP also reported the Middle Eastern clubs will be slotted into a “West” zone, while the East Asian clubs will play in an “East” zone, with the two zones separated until the semifinals. Arabian Gulf League clubs "will participate in the West." The UAE "will have three automatic qualification slots," as well as one playoff slot. Australia, meanwhile, "were handed a second automatic spot" for the regional club competition while India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam all get a chance to enter via a broadened playoff system (THE NATIONAL, 11/27). AFC officials decided on Tuesday night that Australia's allocation "would be increased from 1.5 spots to 2.5 for next year." It means Central Coast Mariners and Western Sydney "are guaranteed spots in the group stages while Melbourne Victory, which finished third last season, will get the chance to qualify via a playoff against a yet-to-be determined opponent" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 11/28). THE PENINSULA reported Qatar "will get two automatic berths in the 2014 edition of the AFC Champions League." Qatar was "fielding four teams up until this season but from next year, Qatari clubs will get two automatic berths while two more spots could be earned through qualification" (THE PENINSULA, 11/27).
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