World Cup draw throws up possible Southeast Asian derby
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -- The AFC headquarters were filled with groans after Malaysia were handed a possible showdown against arch-rivals Singapore in the second round of 2014 World Cup Asian qualifying when the draw was made on Wednesday.
Malaysia, winners of the Southeast Asian AFF Cup in December, must first overcome Taiwan over two legs in one of eight first round ties which featured the regions lowest ranked teams.
Fifteen second-round matches were then drawn featuring the eight first round winners and the teams ranked between sixth and 27 in the region by FIFA.
Heavy groans and many wry smiles were witnessed in the Kuala Lumpur-based offices of the AFC as Malaysia or Taiwan were drawn to play Singapore.
The match rekindles the searing rivalry between these two neighbours which raged during the Malaysia Cup in the 1990s.
The two legs of the first round matches are due to be played on June 29 and July 3 with opening legs of the second round matches taking place on July 23 and the return five days later.
Gulf heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran, who like Singapore received a first-round bye, were dealt a kind draw when they were paired against unheralded Hong Kong and Maldives respectively.
Indonesia, who could face a FIFA ban for government interference, were drawn against Turkmenistan in the second round with 2007 Asian Cup winners Iraq facing a tricky tie against Yemen, who play their games at one of the highest grounds in the world.
Qatar, hosts of the 2022 World Cup, start their campaign to qualify for a first finals against the winners of the Vietnam and Macau first round tie.
The winners of the 15 second round ties will join last year's four World Cup finalists Japan, Australia, South and North Korea and Bahrain, who missed out to New Zealand in a final playoff, in the third round where they will be drawn into five groups of four teams.
The group winners and runners-up will then be drawn into two pools of five teams with the top two of each claiming a place at the World Cup finals in Brazil.
The two third placed-sides then face off over two legs to decide who plays in a final tie against another continent for the final place in Brazil.