According to AFC President Mohammed bin Hammam, the Asian continent is set to retain its 4.5 qualifying spots for the next edition of the World Cup. When queried about a potential reduction Bin Hammam was defiant that FIFA had no intentions of reducing AFC’s quota of teams:
“Absolutely not. Asia’s places in the World Cup are fully protected. There is no question of any reduction in our quota.”
The draw for AFC qualifying is set to be conducted 385 days from now- July 31st, 2011 in Brazil, the host country of the 2014 World Cup. The first round of matches, in which Palestine is expected to compete in, is set to be delayed yet again. Originally, the AFC wanted to move forward with the first round of matches this October using the 2010 qualifying format. FIFA, however, protested this decision due to the fact that FIFA rankings and co-effecients were ignored. The AFC decided to give previous World Cup participants byes into the 3rd round of qualifying. Had they gone with FIFA rankings Uzbekistan would have received a bye at the expense of Saudi Arabia.
FIFA, keen to avoid a repeat of the most horrendously complex and bias qualification process in the world forced the AFC to delay the start of qualifying to mid-2011. The AFC had wanted to schedule the first games in March, but will not be able to do that now. October 2011 seems to be the probable date for the first matchday mirroring the start date of October 2007 for 2010 World Cup qualifying.