In a move widely reported in the build up to the draw the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has announced it will change the method used determine seeding for the Asian Cup draw.
This is the first time football’s governing body in Asia has seeded the tournament’s fields of participants without the use of the FIFA ranking since 2000.
The change ensures that teams who have not played a competitive match since September (the end of the World Cup qualifying Round 3) were not penalized for participating in friendlies during that time frame.
If the AFC had used the previous methodology, Uzbekistan, Qatar, and Iraq who all would have been placed in Pot 3. Thailand, who failed to win a game in Round 3 of World Cup qualifying, are also rewarded, escaping the purgatory of Pot 4.
Palestine, who were under the assumption that a win against Oman in their final qualifying game could have delivered a position in Pot 1, were instead locked into Pot 3 regardless of the result.
As such, Palestine cannot be placed in the same group as Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Oman, India, and Vietnam.
The draw is slated for May 4th and will be held in Dubai.
Palestine has historically fared better against the field of teams in Pot 3 than the teams in Pot 4. Al-Fida’i have registered at least one win against all opponents in Pot 3 while they have failed to beat Jordan in eight official matches (0-4-4).
They faced Turkmenistan and Korea DPR at the 2012 Challenge Cup, registering a draw against the former and a semifinal loss against the latter.
Pot 1 Record: (1W 5D 9L)
Pot 2 Record: (1W 9D 28L)
Pot 3 Record: (6W 3D 3L)
Pot 4 Record: (6W 7D 6L)
Of the teams in Pot 2, Palestine have only registered a victory over Syria and had a measure of success against Thailand in the 2014 World Cup qualifying match up. Al-Fida’i have struggled mightily against the rest of the field composed of China, Iraq, Uzbekistan and Qatar. Palestine have scored a mere 10 goals against them in 28 matches. The last goal was an Ahmed Keshkesh consolation in Mousa Bezzaz’s first game at the helm in 2009, a 3-1 loss against China.
Palestine have less of a track record against teams in Pot 1 having never faced Korea Republic or Australia. Al-Fida’i faced Japan on one occasion- their Asian Cup finals debut in Newcastle- which ended in a 4-0 win for the Japanese.
The side’s sole win came against UAE- their first since rejoining FIFA in 1998. With a 1-2-2 overall record, Al-Fida’i will be hoping to draw the hosts, who have yet to find their footing under new manager Alberto Zaccheroni.
Palestine hold a respectable record against Saudi Arabia (0-2-3) and have demonstrated an ability to frustrate the Green Falcons.
Palestine have faced Asia’s best team, Iran, on four occasions. Managing a famous 1-1 draw in 2000 courtesy of a Fadi Lafi goal. When the sides last met in October 2011 the result ended a 7-0 victory for Team Melli a result widely seen as rock bottom for Palestine. A month later, Jamal Mahmoud took charge and began a regeneration of the team that resulted in Asian Cup qualification two and a half years later.
In the new, expanded format of 24 teams there are more permutations to take into account. It used to be that a win and a draw with a dose of luck could result in a quarterfinals berth. Now the format of the tournament is far more forgiving. As Portugal showed during the expanded Euro 2016 tournament, three points and a goal difference of zero is the new bar to get to the Round of 16.
Additionally which group a team is drawn in can radically alter the difficulty of a path to the final.
According to the tournament’s guidelines four runner ups will avoid playing a group winner in the Round of 16.
Runners Up from Group A and C will face each other in the Round of 16 as will the second place teams from Group B and F.
Group A will include hosts UAE. The winner of of the Round of 16 matchup between Group B and F runners up will play the winner of Group A (likely UAE) in the quarterfinal.