The draw for the 7th edition of the West Asian Football Federation Championship was announced today and not everything went totally to plan. The United Arab Emirates, in the midst of a rebuilding process after crashing out of World Cup Qualifying, submitted a request to enter their U-22 team. Their request was summarily rejected leaving the tournament with eleven teams instead of the planned twelve.
More analysis and the complete draw after the jump!
It was a curious decision to say the least given the fact that perennial champions Iran have entered weaker teams on many an occasion. In fact, last I checked they had announced that they were sending their U22s as well. Moreover, defending champions Kuwait fielded what was considered less than a first-choice team and won the last edition of the tournament. I am confused as to why the United Arab Emirates would even submit this request- why not just select one overage player and claim that the squad was the result of managerial preference?
But wait it gets better! Apparently teams from the bottom three pots were drawn into the groups and the organizers then asked the Kuwaiti FA which group they would like to be in. They picked Group A alongside Oman, Lebanon, and Palestine.
For Palestine, Group A is a good draw for two reasons. First and foremost they are paired with the weakest team from the first pot and the chance of Palestine grabbing a result against Kuwait is far higher than if they were to play Iraq (0-2-8) or Iran (-12 GD in 4 matches). Yes, Palestine’s record against Kuwait is identical to the one they have against Iran (0-1-3) but one of those losses came in extratime of a meaningless Pan-Arab Games consolation match. Moreover, Palestine will want to set the record straight after losing to Kuwait in the Arab Cup despite being the stronger side over 90 minutes.
Oman and Lebanon represent new challenges for the national team who need to avoid facing the same carousel of opponents. Palestine have never faced Oman before and have only faced Lebanon once since reentering FIFA in 1998 (A 3-1 loss in their first match with Ibrahim Munasarah scoring the goal).
1. Kuwait (100/12)
2. Oman (93/11)
3. Lebanon (124/16)
4. Palestine (151/23)
1. Iran (54/4)
2. Saudi Arabia (105/13)
3. Bahrain (112/14)
4. Yemen (152/24)
1. Iraq (78/7)
2. Jordan (87/9)
3. UAE (120/15)
4. Syria (148/21)