World Cup 2006 "tough draw" for Asia-5 says AFC

"The five Asian teams at the 2006 World Cup got a tough draw," was the immediate reaction of the Asian Football Confederation's website after 32 nations were each allocated positions in one of eight groups for the next round of FIFA's four-yearly competition.

In Group F, Japan will go up against AFC newcomers Australia on 12 June 2006, in Kaiserlautern, and play Croatia on June 18 in Nuremberg, before clashing with Brazil in Dortmund on 22 June. After Japan, Australia, who qualified after an Oceania playoff against South American Uruguay, take on Brazil in Munich on 18 June and play against Croatia in Stuttgart on 22 June.

In Group G, 2002 semifinalists Korea Republic open their campaign against Togo on 13 June in Frankfurt, clash with France in Leipzig on 18 June and play Switzerland on 23 June in Hanover.

In Group D, Iran are first up against Mexico in Nuremberg on 11 June, play Portugal in Frankfurt on 17 June and then Angola in Leipzig on 21 June.

In Group H, Saudi Arabia kicks off against Tunisia on 14 June, play Ukraine in Hamburg on 19 June and come up against Spain in Kaiserlautern on 23 June.

The full draw:

Group A: Germany, Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador; Group B: England, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Sweden; Group C: Argentina, Cote d'Ivoire, Serbia and Montenegro, The Netherlands; Group D: Mexico, Iran, Angola, Portugal; Group E: Italy, Ghana, USA, Czech Republic; Group F: Brazil, Croatia, Australia, Japan; Group G: France, Switzerland, South Korea, Togo; Group H: Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia.


Former German international Wolfgang Overath suggested yesterday that the Islamic Republic of Iran, "should be banned" from the 2006 World Cup finals because of a new statement by its president that the Holocaust did not occur, which closely follows him calling for the majority-Jewish state of Israel to be "wiped off the map".

"We don't accept European countries saying that Hitler killed millions of Jews in furnaces and if Europeans want they should give some of their provinces to Zionists," president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad commented on the last day of the Organization of Islamic Conference meeting in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, as quoted by the Anadolu Newsagency of Turkey.

"Such comments from a head of state are really grounds enough to exclude a country," Overath said in an interview on German television ahead of the World Cup draw in Leipzig.

The Foreign Ministry of World Cup host country Germany told Reuters it had summoned Iran's ambassador to protest against the Iranian president's remarks.


FIFA will not kick out Iran from next year's World Cup in Germany despite calls from German politicians for it to be excluded because the country's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denies the Holocaust. "FIFA strictly separates sports from politics," spokesman Andreas Herren said, as reported by the Ottawa Sun (16 Dec).