'Socceroos' wait for AFC zone placement

The Asian Football Confederation has delayed until September a decision on whether Australia will join the East Asian or ASEAN zone when it formally moves from Oceania on 1 January, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

A two-day workshop in Kuala Lumpur this week kick-started the planning process for Australia's integration into Asia but it will be left to an AFC Congress in Marrakech, Morocco, on 11 September, to decide on the most fundamental issue of which of Asia's two regional zones will embrace Australia.

While the zone system does not affect the World Cup or Asian Cup qualifying procedure for the 'Socceroos', it does determine the draw for all other national teams. East Asia includes regional juggernauts China, South Korea and Japan, while ASEAN is a weaker zone competitively - something that would help the various youth, indoor, beach football and women's teams to qualify for FIFA competitions.

ASEAN has more members than East Asia, travelling costs would be cheaper and it hosts Asia's most lucrative regional tournament, the Tiger Cup, which would be an attractive second-tier event for the Socceroos.

Football Federation Australia chief executive John O'Neill, who attended the talks, said yesterday that FFA was in the process of doing more "homework" on the issue but at this stage did not have a preference. "We're happy to leave the final decision up to the AFC," he said.