AFC Futsal Championship 2012 only a few weeks away
Dubai: As the curtain raiser of AFC Futsal Championship 2012 is just 23 days ahead, participating countries are rigorously preparing to reign supreme in Asia where apart from one edition, Iran have dominated the proceedings.
UAE is hosting the event for the first time at the indoor facilities of Al Shabab and Al Wasl. Both the venues will host group stages matches of the 16-team tournament and later the knockout stages matches will be played at Al Wasl.
Hosts UAE are pooled in Group A alongside with Asean powerhouse Thailand and central Asian nations Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Japan, the 2006 champions, are in Group B with Chinese Taipei, Tajikistan and Lebanon while continental giant Iran will meet Australia, Qatar and Korea Republic in strong Group C. Three-time finalists Uzbekistan are grouped alongside with Indonesia, China and Kuwait in Group D.
Teams have already started fine tuning themselves for the tournament proper as friendly visits are being organized. Iran hosted Uzbekistan last month and played two matches winning one and drawing one. Uzbekistan also hosted Kyrgyzstan in Tashkent in April and are scheduled to play two matches against Azerbaijan later this week.
Likewise, hosts UAE and Lebanon played two matches last week in Beirut where Lebanon also invited Libya and Egypt to play a couple of friendly international futsal. Lebanon qualified for the tournament proper after edging Iraq in the third place playoff of the West Zone qualifiers where Qatar were the champions and Kuwait finished second.
Some participating countries have taken their regional meet as an ideal preparation platform for the continental championship as Thailand and Indonesia were involved in AFF Futsal Championship which the Thais won beating Vietnam 9-4 in the final. Indonesia failed to beat Vietnam in the semis but finished third beating Malaysia 4-2 in the playoff.
Currently Iran and Kuwait are involved in the 3rd WAFF (West Asian Football Federation) Futsal Championship which is concluding today. Japan also travelled to Spain in April to play Spanish clubs for the preparation of the AFC Futsal Championship. The Miguel Rodrigo’s side played against OID Talavera, Camicer Torrejon, Caja Segovia and Autos Lobelle.
All sixteen teams will be involved on the opening day of the competition on May 25. The final will be played on June 1. The top four finishers of the championship will be qualified to feature in the FIFA World Futsal Championship to be held in Thailand later this year. By being the hosts, Thailand are already qualified and in case of Thailand finishing top four, the fifth ranked team will get the ticket to feature in the World Cup.