Asian Cup 2007 to kick off next November

The Asian Football Confederation announced that qualifiers for the 2007 Asian Cup will begin next November with Bangladesh and Pakistan, the last two in the continental rankings, playing home and away to eliminate one of them. The 24 teams left in the draw - including Australia for the first time - will be divided into six groups to play a home-away round robin format, starting 28 February 2006, and the two leading teams from each group will advance to the finals to be played in Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The four host countries get direct entries to the finals.

The tournament is held every four years, the last won by Japan in 2004 in Beijing. The AFC decided to change the timing of the competition to avoid it clashing with the Olympic Games and European Football Championships.

The 2007 participating countries are Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China PR, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, India, IR Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Korea Rep., Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen.