Group B – Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Thailand
Iran stormed away with this group unbeaten, continuing the resurgence which began in their World Cup qualifying run. The real battle was for second spot which saw Kuwait & Lebanon slug it out – albeit indirectly (they drew both their games 1-1 & 0-0). However, it was the crucial draw at home to Iran that saw Kuwait over the line, with whipping boys Thailand the recipients of 6 losses along with 21 goals conceded. Lebanon were involved in final match day drama in their game away to Thailand. Their fate was tied to that of the Match in Sharjah between Iraq & China in group C. Lebanon require a win and a China loss to Iraq with a 6 goal swing. This actually occurred for a part of the proceedings when Lebanon were 5-1 up on China & Iraq 3-0 up on China, but in a cruel twist of fate, the Chinese were awarded a penalty, whilst the Lebanese conceded again to Thailand, dashing their hopes of a miracle.
Group C – Saudi Arabia, Iraq, China, Indonesia
The toughest group on paper proved to be the most hotly contested in the end, it also provided the best 3rd placed team. Saudi continued their upturn in recent form and secured qualification with a couple of games to spare. Whilst China & Iraq toiled. Especially the latter who went into the final match day needing a win to secure qualification. They managed to achieve it, and China also managed to squeeze through, albeit unimpressively (see group B for more).
Group D – Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, Malaysia
Bahrain & Qatar proved too strong for a Yemen who did not play a single home game & Malaysia. Two more West Asian teams into the hat in a few weeks then, in what was possibly the easiest group to call alongside group E below.
Group E – United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Hong Kong, Vietnam
The United Arab Emirates are possibly the most exciting team in Asia at the moment, the young & vibrant squad positively waltzed through qualification and will be ones to watch. Uzbekistan, after their World Cup disappointment, shook off the blues and marched on to book their ticket in Australia.
The draw for the finals will take place at the Sydney Opera House on 26th March 214, some cracking groups potentially! Join us for coverage on Twitter and on the blog.